100 Level courses

2024-25

PHIL 111-001 A/B            
What is Philosophy?
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
Sergio Sismondo

Are you looking for a broad introduction to philosophy? Here’s a course structured both around some important themes and the broad sweep of philosophy’s history. We’ll explore arguments about reality, knowledge, ethics and politics, from antiquity to the current day. We’ll be dealing with abstract issues about such things as the basis of morality, but will also apply what we learn to some contemporary issues. We’ll also be focusing on writing, and students in this course will be evaluated on the basis of a number of small writing assignments each term. There will be no midterms or exams.

Texts/Readings: multiple readings, mostly available online

Assessment: multiple small assignments and essays

Learning Hours: 240 (72 Lecture, 168 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None. Exclusion PHIL 151. Note Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 111 or PHIL 115 in their first year of study.  

Course Equivalencies: PHIL111; PHIL111A  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 111-002 A/B            
What is Philosophy?
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON|
Paul Fairfield

An introduction to philosophy through the examination of a number of classic philosophical works, with an evaluation of the positions and arguments offered in each.
NOTE Also offered online. Consult Arts and Science Online. Learning Hours may vary.

Learning Hours: 240 (72 Lecture, 168 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None. Exclusion PHIL 151. Note Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 115 or PHIL 115 in their first year of study.  

Course Equivalencies: PHIL111; PHIL111A  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 115-001 A/B            
Fundamental Questions
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
Jacqueline Davies

Representative basic philosophical issues will be explored, such as: good and bad arguments, the source of moral obligation, the justification of knowledge claims, free will and determinism, the social enforcement of gender roles, taking responsibility for the environment, and the meaning of life.

Learning Hours: 240 (48 Lecture, 24 Tutorial, 168 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None. Note Students considering a Major or Medial Plan in PHIL are strongly urged to take PHIL 111 or PHIL 115 in their first year of study.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 151           
Great Works of Philosophy
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
Mark Smith

Our exploration of some of the classic works of western philosophy will be guided by two main threads. The first is: what can we know, and how? And the other is: how should we live, and why? To address these questions, we will examine some of the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Mill (among others), and see how a critical engagement with their thought brings us to practice philosophy as a living, breathing discipline.

Texts/Readings: Available via the onQ website

Assessment: Combination of written discussion participation, papers, and tests

Learning Hours: 120 (24 Lecture, 12 Tutorial, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None. Exclusion PHIL 111. 

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 151           
Great Works of Philosophy
WINTER - IN PERSON
Nancy Salay

An introduction to ethics via an examination of controversial moral issues. Special topics: abortion; animal rights; euthanasia.
NOTE Also offered online. Consult Arts and Science Online.

Learning Hours: 120 (24 Lecture, 12 Group Learning, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 151           
Great Works of Philosophy
WINTER - IN PERSON
Mark Smith

Our exploration of some of the classic works of western philosophy will be guided by two main threads. The first is: what can we know, and how? And the other is: how should we live, and why? To address these questions, we will examine some of the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Mill (among others), and see how a critical engagement with their thought brings us to practice philosophy as a living, breathing discipline.

Texts/Readings: Available via the onQ website

Assessment: Combination of written discussion participation, papers, and tests

Learning Hours: 120 (24 Lecture, 12 Tutorial, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None. Exclusion PHIL 111. 

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 153        
The State and the Citizen
WINTER - IN PERSON
Christine Sypnowich

This course initiates students to the ideas of political philosophy.  Political philosophy is concerned with how individuals can live in common.  The relation between citizen and state is thus a problem central to political philosophy, and it underpins the many questions political philosophers ask, such as:  What is the rationale for government?  Is there a right to private property which the state is obligated to protect?  Does the individual have an obligation to obey the law?  Should government promote equality?  Some of the more lively contemporary debates in political theory concern whether the idea of citizenship is viable at all.  For example, some feminists detect a sexist bias in the very idea of the citizen, whilst other critics note the difficulty of reconciling citizenship with cultural diversity within society.  Still others claim that citizenship doesn’t take sufficient account of our obligations to nature and the environment.  This course considers a variety of philosophies and ideas to consider some of the principal trends in political argument.

Lectures will set out the arguments and issues of the readings, providing context and fielding questions, with some opportunity for class discussion.

Texts/Readings: Primary readings will be posted onto OnQ.  There is one textbook, Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy.

Assessment: Two in-class essays, a test, and a take-home exam.  2 short papers, a mid-term test, and a final exam, each worth 25%.

Learning Hours: 120 (36 Lecture, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 157         
Moral Issues
FALL - IN PERSON
Rahul Kumar

An introduction to ethics via an examination of controversial moral issues. Special topics: abortion; animal rights; euthanasia.
NOTE Also offered online. Consult Arts and Science Online.

Learning Hours: 120 (24 Lecture, 12 Group Learning, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 157
Moral Issues
WINTER - ONLINE
Jacqueline Davies

An introduction to ethics via an examination of controversial moral issues. Special topics: abortion; animal rights; euthanasia.
NOTE Also offered online. Consult Arts and Science Online.

Learning Hours: 120 (24 Lecture, 12 Group Learning, 84 Private Study)  

Requirements: Prerequisite None.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

2023-24

PHIL 111-001 A/B            
What is Philosophy?
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
 

The course opens with a classic of western philosophy, namely the Meno. Like Plato’s other works, this dialogue features the famous ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. We will end the term, coming full circle across two and a half millennia, to read essays by contemporary American philosopher, Angela Y. Davis.  Like Socrates, Davis was incarcerated and charged with a capital crime—a charge on which she was eventually, unlike Socrates, found not guilty.

In between our study of those works we examine examples of early modern European political philosophy and Indigenous thought on Turtle Island. Specifically, we’ll compare social contract theory with Haudenosaunee teachings about the Great Law of Peace and Anishinaabe reflections on land and agency. Among the themes and philosophical questions that we’ll discuss this term are whether virtue can be taught, how our assumptions about the nature of reality relate to what we think is knowable, and how what we are and what we can know could determine our moral and political responsibilities. Texts and lectures will introduce specific ideas, questions, arguments, and analyses.

Students will be evaluated in the Fall term on their comprehension of this content as well as their engagement as readers of philosophical texts, and their abilities to clearly express insights and arguments in short essay style assignments.

Fall term Assessment: Regular online reading annotations (10x 0.5%) Online and in- class participation Log 5% Texts/Readings: multiple readings available electronically through the course Perusall platform and Queen’s library electronic reserves

Winter Term: We will begin the winter term with another dip into ancient philosophy, this time to look at how two key ancient philosophical traditions, Stoicism and Epicureanism, built up holistic systems that integrated philosophies of nature with philosophies of human action and happiness. From there we will move to the Early-Modern and modern periods to explore some profoundly influential—and sometimes profoundly corrosive—ways of understanding the world, as well as our own place in it. The tendrils of these approaches will lead us to discussions of free will and determinism, questions about our moral responsibility in a shared society, and questions about what can be said to exist and how we can know it.

Winter term Assessment: TBA, but probably broadly similar to the fall term.

PHIL 111-002 A/B            
What is Philosophy?
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
 

This full-year course covers an array of topics. The course starts with one of the biggest questions that humans are able to ask themselves: does God exist? This question leads to a number of other questions concerning religion, all of which are addressed in the first half of the fall semester. After concluding this module in the philosophy of religion, the course proceeds to a module in ethics. The core issue here concerns the source(s) of morality: where does ethics come from? We will study three diametrically opposed answers to this question before concluding for the winter break.

At the beginning of the winter semester, we commence with a module in metaphysics. Specifically, we ask whether humans have free will. As time allows, we will also discuss what’s known as the “problem of induction” – more colloquially, what reason do we have to suppose that the future will resemble the past? The next module is epistemology. Here our over-arching concern will be to learn how it is that we obtain knowledge of the external world. We will examine four different explanations of this phenomenon. The final module of the winter semester as well as the course as a whole is political philosophy. Among the issues that we will explore here are the following: when can the state force someone to do something? and what justifies the existence of the state, anyway? 

In keeping with the official title of the course, we will use some of history’s most important texts as our guides to addressing the issues before us. The philosophers whom we will read include: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, and J.S. Mill. The readings are kept short, so as to aid students’ comprehension.

As for assignments, students will have to write four papers – two each semester. There will be tests at the end of each semester. There will also be several quizzes and comment sheets. The precise nature and value of the assignments will be explained at the beginning of the course in September.

PHIL 115 A/B            
Fundamental Questions
FALL & WINTER - IN PERSON
 

PHIL 115 is an introductory, year-long course in which we explore some of the fundamental questions of philosophy together. The course assumes no prior knowledge of philosophical concepts or ideas but inaugurates students into the traditional divisions of philosophy—metaphysics (the study of reality or existence), epistemology (the study of knowledge), ethics (the study of morality or values), and social and political philosophy (the study of flourishing, justice, and ideal socioeconomic and political arrangements)—as well as a wide range of philosophical inquiries, including but not limited to the philosophy of religion and the meaning of life. These divisions structure the course so that the topics we explore each semester take the form ‘fundamental questions’ that have preoccupied subjects throughout the ages. As we shall see, the questions themselves do not admit of simple or unitary answers. Therefore, the class encourages critical engagement, charitable interpretation, and thinking alongside-and-with others rather than promoting a set of determinate answers to the ten fundamental questions that we survey.

PHIL 151           
Great Works of Philosophy
FALL - IN PERSON, WINTER - IN PERSON, SUMMER - ASO
 

Our exploration of some of the classic works of western philosophy will be guided by two main threads. The first is: what can we know, and how? And the other is: how should we live, and why? To address these questions, we will examine some of the works of Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Mill (among others), and see how a critical engagement with their thought brings us to practice philosophy as a living, breathing discipline.

Combination of discussion participation, papers, and tests.

 

PHIL 153         
The State and the Citizen
FALL - IN PERSON
 

This course introduces students to the central questions of political philosophy by exploring the relationship between states and the citizens over whom they preside. We will do so by examining the works of some of the field’s canonical authors (e.g. Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Rawls) through the lens of three guiding questions. First, what, if anything, justifies the existence of states? Second, what do states owe their citizens? Third, what do citizens owe, either to the states they inhabit, or to one another?

Examining these canonical authors through the lens of these guiding questions will allow us to engage with a number of more particular issues with which political philosophers have been concerned. Such issues include, but are not limited to:
 

What would life look like if states did not exist?

Should states be organized democratically, or is there some superior form of governance?

When, if ever, is it permissible to disobey the law?

What is the relationship between freedom, rights, and equality?

What makes a state just or unjust?

What might states owe to non-citizens?

PHIL 157          
Moral Issues
FALL - IN PERSON
 

An introduction to philosophical reasoning through the examination of topical moral issues.

 Assessment: A mix of short essays and exams.

PHIL 157          
Moral Issues
WINTER - ASO
 

Diverse philosophers and wisdom traditions respond variously to questions about what it means to be moral, ethical, or live “in a good way”. This course introduces multiple frameworks shaping these responses. We will look at how utilitarianism focuses on the positive and negative effects of an action and rejects fixed ideas about certain actions being always forbidden or always demanded. With Immanuel Kant, and theorists of human rights, we will ask if there is anything we just should not do no matter how beneficial its consequences might be for others. We will also draw on the insights of Mahayana Buddhism, feminist ethics of care, African Ubuntu, as well as Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee teachings about interdependence and our responsibilities to all our relations. We consider how relationality and caring are not merely about kindness but are practices that help us know what is needed and how best to respond individually and/or collectively to challenging situations. 

We test our understanding of diverse moral frameworks and teachings by relating them to selected moral issues. These issues may include lying and cheating; consensual sexuality; harmful speech; incarceration; climate crisis; medical ethics, public health and the provision of care; our responsibilities to strangers, as well as to the natural environment; and, whether we have a moral responsibility to challenge (our own) ignorance.  

Skills emphasized include carefully reading philosophical texts for argument, assumptions and implications; respectful and critical conversation with peers; reflective writing exercises to explore and test your intuitions; as well as the elements of written philosophical argumentation. The course is suitable for students in any discipline, and for philosophy concentrators keen to reflect on their own values and reasonable alternatives.  

Texts/Readings: All course readings are available either on the Queen’s Library eReserves and on the course website and Perusall platform. There is no textbook to buy. 

Assessment:  

Regular online active-reading assignments (5%) 

Best 5 out of 6 multiple-choice reading-comprehension quizzes (5%) 

3 writing assignments (15%+25%+40%) 

Portfolio of Learner Reflections (5 entries) 10% 

 

No prerequisites or exclusions: N/A 

Note: The course is suitable for students in any year of any discipline, including philosophy concentrators keen to reflect on their own views and reasonable alternatives. No background in philosophy is assumed.