Department of Philosophy



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**Note re. 2020-21 courses**

All Fall courses are being taught remotely.  Please consult each course description to find out instructors’ plans for how the course will be delivered. 


400 Level Courses

These are courses and descriptions for 2020-21. 


PHIL/PPEC 400 - Capstone PPE - Keay, Lister, Sypnowich
WINTER (3.0)

The questions that are the focus of Politics, Philosophy and Economics share fundamental similarities, including their social nature, the analytical and critical thinking required to address them, and their complexity and multi-dimensionality.  The tools and perspectives may be different in each discipline, but the questions asked are remarkably similar.  The analytical and quantitative rigor of economics, the emphasis on social decision making in politics, and the philosophical underpinnings of both economic and political perspectives are intellectually complementary.  This course is intended to encourage students to identify these complementarities, while providing them with an opportunity to probe, investigate and resolve their own research questions with the disciplinary tools they have acquired in the PPEC plan.
In PPEC 400 students from all three subjects of specialization work collaboratively with their peers, closely supervised by faculty from within and outside their sub-plans, to formulate research questions and complete individual research-intensive projects.  The course is explicitly structured on a multi-disiciplinary inquiry-based model, promoting peer-to-peer learning, in-depth research skills, and interactive presentation skills.
To open the course, instructors from Politics, Philosophy and Economics will review discipline-specific research tools and perspectives, focusing on a common theme.  Students will then break into smaller working groups in which topic ideas will be refined and research challenges overcome in a collaborative setting.  To conclude the course, students have the opportunity to present their research projects and receive feedback from their peers and the course instructors.
There is no assigned text book for this course.  Course readings can be accessed through the course OnQ page, or they can be downloaded from a Queen’s IP address from online journal archives available through the library’s home page.

  • Perspectives on Research: Politics
  • Perspectives on Research: Philosophy
  • Perspectives on Research: Economics
  • Deirdre McCloskey (1999), Economical Writing, Waveland Press.
  • William Thomson (2001), A Guide for the Young Economist. MIT Press.
  • Vernon Smith (1989), “Theory, Experiment and Economics”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 3(1): 151-69.


  • Participation will be worth 20% of the final grade.
  • The project presentation will be worth 20% of the final grade.
  • The final research report will be worth 60% of the final grade.

Level 4 and registration in the PPEC Specialization Plan and a minimum Plan GPA of 2.60 and permission of
the Department.


PHIL 405 - Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy - Krishnamurthy
Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. Now
FALL (3.0)

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 struggles.
Among other things, selections from Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Why We Can’t Wait; Strength to Love; and Where Do We Go From Here. Brandon Terry and Tommie Shelby’s, To Shape a New World. Selections from Meena Krishnamurthy’s Emotions of Nonviolent Resistance.
Weekly discussion questions, at least one class presentation/video; 2 papers or 1 longer paper
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300-level PHIL) and [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level)].


PHIL 405 - Social and Political Philosophy II – Kymlicka
Topic: Interspecies Politics
WINTER (3.0)

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 to 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.
All readings will be electronically accessible
Seminar presentation; comment sheets; and term paper
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300-level PHIL) and [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level)].


PHIL 410 - Topics in History of Philosophy – Leighton
Topic: Plato's Republic
WINTER (3.0)

This course will examine Plato’s Republic, giving participants the opportunity to read, to consider, to discuss and to write on that work. 
While there are numerous ways of approaching Plato and his Republic, the approach of the class will be to seek, as far as is possible, what Plato sought to convey, and our own reactions to the same.  The class will proceed by following the structure of the Republic itself.
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300‐level PHIL) and  [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units  of PHIL at the 300‐level)]. 

PHIL 444 - Philosophy in the Community - Sypnowich
WINTER (3.0)

This is an exciting new course open that provides an opportunity to upper-level Philosophy concentrators (third and fourth year) for a volunteer placement in the community.  Students consider how philosophy can bear upon, and be informed by, the work of a particular community organization, affording a unique learning experience that can also contribute to career development.  The course involves placement hours, occasional class meetings, regular reports and a final research essay that analyses both philosophical literature and the placement experience. 

Community placements to date include:
Sandy Pines Animal Sanctuary (1)

  • Rehabilitation for injured and ill animals
  • Possible research questions: comparative cognition; animal ethic; nature and the environment;) Note this placement requires a car

Providence Care Hospital (6-7)

  • Short- and long-term rehabilitation for patients with physical/mental health issues
  • Possible research questions: mental health; organizational ethics; the ethics of care for the elderly; the nature of personal identity; life, death and meaning

St. Lawrence Place Retirement Home (2)

  • A residence for elderly persons
  • Possible research questions: the ethics of care; personal identity; life, death and meaning; organizational ethics; healthcare administration; philosophy of disability

Big Words Little People Speech Therapy (1)

  • A children-focussed private speech language pathologist practice
  • Possible research questions: language acquisition; human development; mind and culture; personal identity

Kingston Immigration Partnership (2)

  • Counselling service for immigrant and refugee newcomers to Kingston
  • Possible research questions: racism and multiculturalism; equity, diversity and inclusion; immigration, migration and citizenship; borders and refugees; communitarianism

Elizabeth Fry Society (1)

  • Services for women at risk with the criminal justice system
  • Possible research questions: ethics of incarceration; feminism; sexual violence; theories of punishment

H’art Centre for adults with intellectual disabilities (1)

  • Arts therapy centre for people with intellectual disabilities
  • Possible research questions: language and communication; ethics of care; personal identity; philosophy of disability

Kingston City Council (1+)

  • Kingston’s municipal government
  • Possible research questions: distributive justice and poverty; heritage and urban planning; sustainability; organizational ethics

King’s Town School (1)

  • Small downtown private elementary school
  • Possible research questions: Philosophy of education; cognitive development; childhood and children; schooling and distributive justice; disability and accommodation

Reelout Queer Film Festival (+1)

  • LGBTQ+ Kingston film and video festival.
  • Possible research questions: Philosophy of art; Politics of difference; role of visual representation for justice, activism, community-building; intersectionality and community; diversity and inclusion.

Application process:
Students will apply to be admitted to the ‘Philosophy in the Community’ course, and be interviewed, in the fall of 2020.  Information meetings and interviews will take place in the fall term, and the decision about admission will be made by October.  Selection will be based on marks, the quality of the application, and the interview.  Successful students will be allocated to one of several placements in the community, depending on their interests, abilities, their philosophical project and availability.  The placement will take place in the winter of 2021.  Students are advised to nonetheless enroll in a full complement of regular courses so that they will have a fallback plan in case they are unsuccessful in getting a place. Application form.

Course details:
Students will be coached in the autumn term by the course coordinator to define their philosophical project and to prepare for this opportunity.  The coordinator will be in regular contact with students to ensure things are going smoothly.  Students will bring their philosophical skills of critical analysis and reflection, discussion and writing, to participate in the activities of a local organization.  Students might help out with the organization’s tasks, or simply observe or shadow the professional(s) involved.  This would be a volunteer placement; students would not be paid.

Class format and assessment:
Students would be expected to spend about 27 hours at the placement.  There will also be a few class times, one at the beginning of the winter term, to orient students for the placement, and two at the end of the term, for students to share their experiences, for a total of 36 hours of class/volunteer time.

  • Biweekly reports (best 4 out of 5): worth 40%
  • Presentation – overview of research and plans for research paper: worth 10%
  • Final paper (4,000 words) that considers the chosen philosophical topic in light of the community experience: worth 40%
  • Students will earn a credit for Phil 510/3.0 Philosophy in the Community, which will count towards their required complement of graduate courses.

Level 3 or above. Students must complete an application and have permission from instructor.

Please contact Christine Sypnowich ( if you have any questions.


PHIL 445 - Major Figures – Miller
Topic: Spinoza
FALL (3.0)

This course will offer an advanced introduction to Spinoza’s Ethics.  The focus will be on metaphysics and epistemology.  As time allows, we will proceed to consider Spinoza’s actual moral philosophy. 
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300-level PHIL) and [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level)].


PHIL 452 - Current Issues in Metaphysics - Laycock
Topic: Issues in contemporary analytical metaphysics, ontology and logic.
WINTER (3.0)

Does metaphysics have a place within its schemes of categories for material stuff or matter -- a place for substances like iron, salt and water? One would certainly expect so; but in fact, the short answer appears to be NO. It seems that there has long been no place in metaphysics for this category, so a place needs to be made for it. The main door into the discipline allows in objects, individuals or things alone.
Among the topics for consideration are the dichotomy of universal and particular, the nature of attributes and natural kinds, the dichotomy of countable objects and uncountable material stuff. These topics are intimately related to logico-semantical distinctions such as that of 'singular term' and 'general term'; and equally, that of names, variables and predicates. Certain works of contemporary authors, including especially W. V. O. Quine, will be examined, but the ideas here involved go back to the ancient world of Plato, Aristotle and the Presocratics.
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300-level PHIL) and [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level)].


PHIL 459 - Current Issues in the Philosophy of Language – Mercier
Topic: Philosophy of Language and Thought
FALL (3.0)

To accommodate the confines of COVID and to better the student experience in the circumstances of remote learning, this year’s Philosophy of Language will go Formal. Using a series of user-friendly chapters produced by the instructor, the course will investigate what a language is as a formal structure, and what kinds of ontological and syntactic categories and formal devices are required for its logical, linguistic, and contextual understanding. In so doing, the course covers the formal notions of functions and relations, arguments, individuals and variables, generalized quantifiers and scope, set theory, grammar theory, hierarchies of infinity (Cantor), incompleteness (Gödel), undecidability, Montague grammar, and intensional semantics..
Bi-weekly chapter exercises, midterm test, final exam. Graduates: research project TBD.
361 & 362 (may be taken concurrently), or permission of instructor. Preferably some exposure too LINGuistics.
NOTE:  Availability in timetabled slots is expected for this course.


PHIL 470 Topics in Philosophy in Science — Stinson
: Third Wave Artificial Intelligence
This course explores an emerging approach to the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that combines the detailed case studies and methodological analysis characteristic of philosophy of science, with consideration of the ethical questions facing the scientific community.The topics of discussion will focus on questions arising from AI’s recent rise to prominence. These include whether an algorithm can be biased, whether deep learning networks perceive objects the same way primate brains do, whether the erosion of privacy that companies like facebook, google, and amazon are spearheading is a fair price to pay for the convenience of high tech tools, whether tracking technologies like facial recognition, covid-19 contact tracing, and wearables are reasonable incursions on liberty, how the culture of silicon valley affects the technologies it produces, who should be responsible for making sure AI is ethical, and whether there should be some questions that researchers are not permitted to explore.
Costanza-Chock, Design Justice
Douglas, “The Moral Responsibilities of Scientists”
Mbembe, “Necropolitics”
Stark, “Facial recognition is the plutonium of AI”
Wiener, Uncanny Valley
Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
plus readings available online, and science fiction film pairings
Details TBA. Will include participation, mixed-media assignments, and a research project.
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300‐level PHIL) and  [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units  of PHIL at the 300‐level)]. 


PHIL 473 - Philosophical Logic - Mercier
Spring (3.0)

The course will cover modal logics in their Leibnizian and Kripkean forms, comparing their alethic, epistemic, deontic and temporal interpretations and the theorems deriving from them; and higher-order logics. This will complete an exhaustive survey of what is known a Classical Logic. The course will explore Non-Classical Logics:   the justification for and consequences of various tri-valued logics; the justification for and consequences of many- and infinite-valued logics; and the oft trivialized by the ignorant: Fuzzy Logic (which is far from fuzzy…)
Weekly chapter exercises, midterm test, final exam. Graduates: research project TBD.
361 & 362 or equivalent by permission of instructor.
NOTE:  Availability in timetabled slots is expected for this course.


PHIL 493 - Ethics and the Environment - Mick Smith
Topic: Environmental Philosophy
WINTER (3.0)

This course will engage with a number of key environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction, preservation or conservation, environmental and social justice, eco-feminism, deep ecology, bioregionalism and ecological restoration 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.
Level 4 and (PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0) and (a minimum GPA of 2.4 in all 300-level PHIL) and [(registration in a PHIL Major Plan and 9.0 units of PHIL at the 300 level) or (registration in a PHIL Medial Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level)].