Christine Overall

Christine Overall

Professor Emerita, Queen’s University Research Chair


Arts and Science

People Directory Affiliation Category

PhD, University of Toronto


Philosophy of ageing and death, philosophy of gender and sexuality, procreative ethics, philosophy of religion

Personal Website


After teaching philosophy and humanities at Marianopolis College, Montreal, for nine years, Christine Overall came to Queen’s University in 1984 as a Webster Fellow in the Humanities. In 1986 she was named a Queen’s National Scholar in the Queen’s Department of Philosophy. She was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 1987 and awarded tenure in 1990. In 1992 she was promoted to Full Professor. From 1997 to 2005 she served as Associate Dean in the Faculty of Arts and Science. In 2004 she was appointed to the John and Ella G. Charlton Professorship in Philosophy at Queen’s University, and in 2005 she was awarded a Queen’s University Research Chair.

Dr. Overall has also held visiting positions at several universities: the Inaugural Churchill Professorship in Feminist Philosophy at the University of Waterloo (2003); the Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax) (2006-07); and the Visiting Professorship in Canadian Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University (Nishinomiya) (2011-12). 

Dr. Overall was the first feminist philosopher elected to the Royal Society of Canada (1998), and was the 2008 winner of the Royal Society of Canada’s Gender Studies Award. She has received two awards for teaching excellence, one from Queen’s University (1990) and one from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (1996). Her 2003 book, Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry, won both the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Book Prize (2005) and the Royal Society of Canada’s Abbyann Lynch Medal in Bioethics (2006). In 2014 she was the recipient of Queen’s University’s Prize for Excellence in Research.

  • Ethics and Human Reproduction: A Feminist Analysis (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987; reprinted, 1989; republished by Routledge Library Editions (London, UK and New York City, 2013).
  • Human Reproduction: Principles, Practices, Policies (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1993).
  • A Feminist I: Reflections from Academia (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1998).
  • Thinking like a Woman: Personal Life and Political Ideas (Toronto: Sumach Press, 2001).
  • Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2003).
  • Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2012).
Edited Books / Collections
  • Feminist Perspectives: Philosophical Essays on Method and Morals, coedited with Lorraine Code and Sheila Mullett (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988; reprinted, 1992; remained in print until September, 2002).
  • The Future of Human Reproduction (Toronto: Women’s Press, 1989).
  • Perspectives on AIDS: Ethical and Social Issues, coedited with William Zion (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1991; reprinted, 1992).
  • Dying in Public: Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, by Sue Hendler (Kingston: Michael Grass House, 2012).
  • Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Edited Journal Issues
  • “Educating Women/Women’s Education: In the Postsecondary Context,” Atlantis 33.2 (2009).
Selected Journal Articles
  • “The Nature of Mystical Experience,” Religious Studies 18 (1982): 47‑54.
  • “Mysticism, Phenomenalism, and W. T. Stace,” Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 18 (1982): 177‑190.
  • “New Reproductive Technology: Some Implications for the Abortion Issue,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 19 (1985): 279‑292.
  • “Miracles as Evidence against the Existence of God,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 23 (1985): 347‑353.
  • “Artificial Reproduction and the Meaning of Infertility,” Queen’s Quarterly 92 (Autumn, 1985): 482‑488.
  • “Reproductive Ethics: Feminist and Non‑Feminist Approaches,” Canadian Journal of Women and the Law/revue juridique “la femme et le droit” I, #2 (1986): 271‑278.
  • “‘Pluck A Fetus From Its Womb’: A Critique of Current Attitudes Toward the Embryo/Fetus,” The University of Western Ontario Law Review 24 (1986): 1‑14. (Winner of a $1000 prize for papers on the topic, “Reproduction and Technology: Implications for the Future”)
  • “Sexuality, Parenting, and Reproductive Choices,” Resources for Feminist Research/Documentation sur la recherche féministe 16 #3 (September, 1987): 42‑45.
  • “Ascribing Sexual Orientations,” Atlantis 13, #2 (Spring, 1988): 48‑57.
  • “Mother/Fetus/State Conflicts,” Health Law in Canada 9 #4 (1989): 101‑103, 122.
  • “Heterosexuality and Feminist Theory,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 20 #1 (March 1990): 1‑18.
  • “Selective Termination of Pregnancy and Women’s Reproductive Autonomy,” Hastings Center Report 20 #3 (May/June, 1990): 6‑11.
  • “Access to In Vitro Fertilization: Costs, Care, and Consent,” Dialogue 30 #3 (summer, 1991): 383‑397.
  • “What’s Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 17:4 (summer, 1992): 705‑724.
  • “Feeling Fraudulent: Some Moral Quandaries of a Feminist Instructor,” Educational Theory 47 #1 (winter, 1997): 1-13.
  • “Miracles and God: A Reply to Robert A. H. Larmer,” Dialogue 36 #4 (fall, 1997): 741-752.
  • “Monogamy, Non-Monogamy, and Identity,” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 13 #4 (fall, 1998): 1-17.
  •  “Miracles and Larmer,” invited response to Robert Larmer’s “Miracles, Evidence, and God.” Dialogue 42 #1 (2003): 123-135.
  • “Transsexualism and ‘Transracialism’,” Social Philosophy Today 20 (July, 2004): 183-193.
  • “Old Age and Ageism, Impairment and Ableism: Exploring the Conceptual and Material Connections,” National Women’s Studies Association Journal Special Issue on Aging, Ageism, and Old Age 18 #1 (Spring 2006): 126-137.
  • “Miracles, Evidence, Evil, and God: A Twenty-Year Debate,” Dialogue 45 #2 (Spring, 2006): 355-366.
  • “Public Toilets: Sex Segregation Revisited,” Ethics and the Environment 12 (2), (Fall/Winter 2007): 71-91.
  • “Never Eat Anything with a Face: Ontology and Ethics,” Planning Theory 11 (4) (2012): 336-342.
  • “Reply to ‘Overall and Larmer on Miracles as Evidence for the Existence of God’, by Frank Jankunis” Dialogue 53 (4) (2014): 601- 609.
  • “Reproductive ‘Surrogacy’ and Parental Licensing,” Bioethics 29 (5) (2015): 353–361.
  • “Rethinking Abortion, Ectogenesis, and Fetal Death,” Journal of Social Philosophy 46 (1) (2015): 126-140.
Chapters in Books (from 2010 onward)
  • “‘From Here to Eternity’: Is It Good to Live Forever?” in Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions, 2nd edition, edited by David Benatar (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010): 379-393.
  • “Indirect Indoctrination, Internalized Religion, and Parental Responsibility,” in Religious Upbringing and the Costs of Freedom: Personal and Philosophical Essays, edited by Peter Caws and Stefani Jones (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010): 11-26.
  • “New Reproductive Technologies and Practices: Benefits or Liabilities for Children?” excerpted in The Cambridge Medical Ethics Workbook, second edition, edited by Donna Dickenson, Richard Huxtable, and Michael Parker (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010): 34-36.
  • “Life Span Extension: Metaphysical Basis and Ethical Outcomes,” in Enhancing Human Capacities, edited by Julian Savulescu, Ruud Ter Meulen, and Guy Kahane (Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011): 386-397.
  • “What I Learned in Deanland, or The Adventures of a (Female) Associate Dean,” in Not Drowning But Waving: Women, Feminism, and the Liberal Arts, edited by Susan Brown, Jeanne Perrault, Jo-Ann Wallace, and Heather Zwicker (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2011): 143-155.
  • “Into the Mouths of Babes: The Moral Responsibility to Breastfeed,” with Tabitha Bernard, in Philosophical Inquiry into Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering: Maternal Subjects, edited by Sheila Lintott and Maureen Sander-Staudt (New York: Routledge, 2012): 49-63.
  • “Adopting a Life Course Approach,” excerpted from Aging, Death, and Human Longevity, in Health Care Ethics in Canada, third edition, edited by Françoise Baylis, Barry Hoffmaster, Susan Sherwin, and Kirstin Borgerson (Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd., 2012): 77-85.
  • Précis of Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry reprinted in Readings in Health Care Ethics, 2nd edition, edited by Elisabeth (Boetzkes) Gedge and Wilfrid J. Waluchow (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2012): 618-624.
  • “Women in Academia: Eight Misperceptions,” in Nancy’s Chair 25th Anniversary Celebration: A Collection of Lectures by the Holders of Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, 1999-2012, edited by Rita Shelton Deverell (Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice, 2012): 35-42.
  • “The Ethical University,” in Nancy’s Chair 25th Anniversary Celebration: A Collection of Lectures by the Holders of Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies, 1999-2012, edited by Rita Shelton Deverell (Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice, 2012): 43-58.
  • “Gender, Aspirational Identity, and Passing,” in Passing/Out: Sexual Identity Veiled and Revealed, edited by Dennis Cooley and Kelby Harrison (Farnham, England: Ashgate Press, 2012): 203-211.
  • “Comments on Karin Sellberg’s ‘Pro-Passing, Transgender Identity and Literature: (Post-) Transsexual Politics and Poetics of Passing’,” in Passing/Out: Sexual Identity Veiled and Revealed, edited by Dennis Cooley and Kelby Harrison (Farnham, England: Ashgate Press, 2012): 219-223.
  • “A Response to Sellberg,” in Passing/Out: Sexual Identity Veiled and Revealed, edited by Dennis Cooley and Kelby Harrison (Farnham, England: Ashgate Press, 2012): 227-229.
  • “Trans Persons, Cisgender Persons, and Gender Identities,” in The Philosophy of Sex, sixth edition, edited by Raja Halwani and Nicholas Power (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012): 251-267.
  • “Sexism and the Gendering of Universities,” in Changing Places: Feminist Essays in Empathy and Relocation, edited by Valerie Burton and Jean Guthrie (Toronto: Inanna Publications, 2014): 56-71.
  • “What is the Value of Procreation?” in Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges, edited by Françoise Baylis and Carolyn McLeod (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014): 89-108.
  • “My Parents’ Hands Are on My Back,” in Class Lives: Stories from Across Our Economic Divide, edited by Chuck Collins, Jennifer Ladd, Maynard Seider, and Felice Yeskel (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2014): 124-126.
  • “When Prospective Parents Disagree” (excerpted from Why Have Children? The Ethical Debate) in Applied Ethics: A Multicultural Approach, sixth edition, edited by Larry May and Jill B. Delston (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2016): 379-392.
  • “Think Before You Breed” (reprint), in The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley (New York: Norton/Liveright, 2016), pp. 546-550.
  • “Parental Licensing and Pregnancy as a Form of Education,” in Procreation, Parenthood, and Educational Rights: Ethical and Philosophical Issues, edited by Jaime Ahlberg and Michael Cholbi (New York: Routledge, 2016): 246-267.
  • “Paradox in Practice: What We Can Learn about Love from Relationships between Parents and Young Adult Children,” in New Philosophies of Love and Sex: Thinking through Desire, edited by Sarah LaChance Adams, Christopher M. Davidson, and Caroline R. Lundquist. (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017): 145-166.
  • “Throw Out the Dog? Death, Longevity and Companion Animals,” in Pets and People: The Ethics of Our Relationships with Companion Animals, edited by Christine Overall (New York: Oxford, 2017): 249-263.
  • “How Old is Old?”, in The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Aging, edited by Geoffrey Scarre (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017): 13-30.
  • “The Question of Longevity,” in Should We Live Forever? Biological and Ethical Perspectives, Beiträge des interdisziplinären Symposiums vom 20. Juli 2016 im Institut für Molekulare Biologie (IMB), Mainz. Akademie der Wissenshaften und der Literatur, Mainz. (Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017): 15-25.
  •  “Reasons to Have Children—Or Not,” in The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Childhood and Children, edited by Anca Gheaus, Gideon Calder, and Jurgen De Wispelaere. (New York: Taylor and Francis, 2018): 147-157.
  • “Whose Child is This? ‘Surrogacy,’ Authority, and Responsibility,” in Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy, edited by Angela Cameron, Alana Cattapan, and Vanessa Gruber (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2018): 29-49.
  • “Aging and the Loss of Social Presence,” in Aging in an Aging Society: Critical Reflections, edited by Iva Apostolova and Monique Lanoix. (Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing, 2019): 65-81.
  • “The Ethics of Companion Animal Euthanasia,” in The Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics, edited by Bob Fischer. (New York: Routledge, 2019): 326-337.
  • “The Paradox of Human Finitude,” in Aging and Human Nature, edited by Claudia Bozzaro, Mark Schweda, and Michael Coors (New York: Springer, 2020): 161-169.
  •  “Is Ageing Good?,” in The Ethics of Ageing, edited by Christopher Wareham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2021).
  • “Ain’t Love Grand? Looking at Grandparental Love,” in Philosophy of Love in the Past, Present and Future, edited by Natasha McKeever, Joe Saunders, and André Grahle. New York: Routledge (forthcoming 2021).
Work in progress
  • papers on philosophy of death and ageing
  • "My Children, Their Children, and Benatar’s Anti-Natalism”

In addition to many radio and television interviews, from 1993 to 2006 Dr. Overall wrote a weekly column entitled “In Other Words,” published in the Kingston Whig-Standard. From 2008 to 2011 she wrote a monthly column for University Affairs, Canada’s national academic magazine.

Courses Taught
  • PHIL 101Introduction to Philosophy
  • PHIL 157 Moral Issues
  • PHIL 204 Life, Death, and Meaning
  • PHIL 263 Philosophy of Religion
  • PHIL 301 Moral Philosophy and Medicine (retitled Biomedical Ethics)
  • PHIL 375 Philosophy and Feminism
  • PHIL 376 Philosophy and Feminism
  • PHIL 454*/854 Topics in Feminist Philosophy: The Feminist Sexuality Debates
  • PHIL 454*/854 Topics in Feminist Philosophy: Philosophy of the Body
  • PHIL 495*/895 Ethics and Human Reproduction
  • PHIL 402/673 Advanced Studies in Feminism (University of Waterloo)
  • GWOM 6615 Feminist Philosophy and the Body (Mount Saint Vincent University)
  • PHIL 3350/WOMS 4411 Feminism and Masculinities (Mount Saint Vincent University)
  • Bioethics in Canada (Undergraduate) (Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan)
  • Philosophy and Death (Graduate) (Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan)