300 Level Courses


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

Instructor: Udo Schuklenk


In this bioethics introductory course we will tackle bioethical problems ranging from the question of who or what has moral status, (and for what reasons), to abortion and euthanasia, resource allocation justice, COVID19 and other global and public health ethics challenges, as well as a fair number of other topics.

Given that Queen's University is aiming for asynchronous delivery you can expect a number of weekly lecture type short videos accompanying slide presentations. We will use OnQ for weekly homeworks as well as bulletin board type features, chatrooms and the like for communication purpose. The important bit is that you can take this class at your leisure as there won't be any fixed time where you must attend a particular Zoom or Teams session. 

Your professor as well as the teaching assistants will aim to make themselves available at short notice should you wish to virtually meet them in order to discuss pressing matters via Zoom, Facetime, Skype etc.

  • Reading: This is Bioethics
  • Assessment: From week 4 you must address/answer one of the questions raised at the end of each of the textbook chapters in a short 500-750 word response. From week 3 you must submit each week, at a to-be-determined date, a question pertaining to the required readings that you'd like the professor to address in one of the subsequent week's lecture videos. This may include questions of understanding. The submission must include a paragraph long justification for your question. There is no final exam, the assessment criteria are subject to (minor) change.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: Level 3 or above

Instructor: Jacquelyn Maxwell

Fall (3.0)

Businesses and economic systems shape our lives, politics, and society. The ubiquity of business in our lives makes understanding the connections and tensions between ethics and business a pertinent and important matter. This course will examine whether and how businesses, workers, and consumers can behave ethically. For example, how much control should businesses have over their employees? Is it ethical for businesses to monitor their employee’s internet activities? What rights and responsibilities should employers and employees have? 

  • Note: Availability in some timetabled slots is encouraged, but not mandatory, for this course. 
  • Assesment: Students will be assessed through a mix of short written assignments and an essay.  
  • Learning Hours: 20 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite Exclusions: Level 3 or above. COMM 338/3.0.  

Instructor: David Bakhurst

SPRING (3.0)

This course will be taught remotely. Students will not be required to “attend” the designated class times. Those times may be used for optional activities, such as office hours or informal discussion sessions. 

What is the nature of mind and to what extent can it be disclosed by natural-scientific methods?  This course draws on the ideas of a variety of thinkers—such as Bruner, Hacking, McDowell, Midgley, Vygotsky, Wiggins, and Wittgenstein—to explore the nature of psychological explanation.  We will examine the social dimensions of the human mind, addressing questions of personhood, identity, rationality, freedom and self-knowledge. Finally, we shall consider how these issues illuminate the psychology of learning, development and education. 

  • Reading: Bakhurst, The Formation of Reason; Midgely, Beast and Man; plus various articles and supplementary text to be determined
  • Prerequisite: PHIL 250/6.0 or 12.0 units in PSYC or permission of the Department.

Instructor: Deborah Knight

WINTER (3.0)

This year we will examine key questions about the nature and value of art, such as: What is art? Can "art" be defined"? What counts as a viable theory of art? What aesthetic properties and experiences are typically associated with art? What is artistic value? What is aesthetic value? What is art for? Why does art matter?
Along the way, we will read a number of sometimes quite opposed views defended by both philosophers and art critics and also consider works of art from a variety of art forms, ranging from the visual arts to musical arts, and from “high” art to “low,” “popular,” and “folk” art.

  • Texts/Readings: Course readings will be available through Queen’s Library’s E-reserves and linked to our OnQ site.
  • Assessment: Students can expect to write some combination of shorter and longer assignments. The objective is to develop skills of critical analysis and interpretation.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: Level 3 or above

Instructor: Kyle Johannsen

FALL (3.0)

Law and morality are related in a number of ways. On the one hand, laws function to protect our basic rights and freedoms, and we seemingly have a moral duty to obey the law. What’s more, laws can be used to enforce the moral obligations we owe to one another, e.g., the obligation to honour one’s contractual agreements. On the other hand, laws are sometimes immoral, and when they are, we’re arguably justified in breaking or otherwise protesting them. This course will survey a number of issues that lie at the intersection of law and morality. Topics we’ll cover include: whether there is a necessary connection between law and morality, the limits liberty sets on what can justifiably be enforced through law, and the use of judicial review to overturn democratically enacted laws. 

The content for this course will be delivered asynchronously. It will be broken up into weekly modules and students will be expected to complete each module before the next one, but there won’t be any scheduled seminars to attend. Except for the assigned readings, course content will be made available via OnQ.   

  • Texts/Readings: The course textbook is the third edition of a collection entitled Law and Morality: Readings in Legal Philosophy. It’s edited by David Dyzenhaus, Sophia Reibetanz Moreau, and Arthur Ripstein; and it’s published by the University of Toronto Press.  All of the assigned readings can be found in the course textbook. 
  • Assessment:
    • 5 Discussion Boards (2% each for a total of 10%) 
    • 5 Reading Comprehension Quizzes (4% each for a total of 20%) 
    • Short Essay (15%)  
    • Term Paper (25%) 
    • Take-Home Exam (30%)
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: Level 3 or above 

Instructor: Jon Miller

Fall (3.0)

This course will focus on two of the greatest philosophers of the 17th century and arguably, of all time, Spinoza and Leibniz.  After some initial stage-setting, where we will briefly look at Descartes and bring into view the issues on which we will concentrate, we will split the remaining weeks between the two.  We will proceed chronologically, starting with Spinoza and ending with Leibniz.  We will attempt to understand their key metaphysical and epistemological doctrines and why they held them.  Though we will not ignore the historical contexts within they lived, our interest will be primarily on their philosophical claims.

  • Texts/Readings: For Spinoza, all readings will be taken from his magnum opus, the *Ethics*. Because Leibniz did not write a single great work, we will draw on a variety of his writings. The texts are difficult and require careful study. To aid comprehension, readings will be carefully chosen and very precise. There will be a recommended textbook on order through the Campus Bookstore but students can use their own sources if they like.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: PHIL 250/6.0 or PHIL 257/6.0 or permission of the Department.

Instructor: Mark Smith

WINTER (3.0)

Many women were active participants in philosophical and scientific thought in the early modern period (i.e. roughly the 17th and 18th centuries). Unfortunately, their contributions have been mostly occluded by the way in which the history of philosophy has been told, and the way in which “the canon” has taken shape. A fuller understanding of early modern philosophy demands that we attend to women’s contributions, and we will do so through an examination of Elisabeth of Bohemia, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Mary Astell, Damaris Masham, Émilie du Châtelet, and others.

  • Texts/Readings: Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period, ed. Margaret Atherton; other readings will be made available through the class website.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: PHIL 250/6.0 or PHIL 257/6.0 or permission of the Department.

Instructor: Kerah Gordon-Solmon

FALL (3.0)

This course will provide an upper-level introduction to contemporary discussions of distributive justice. The central text will be John Rawls' pioneering book, A Theory of Justice. We will also look at selections from the critical literature surrounding the book, as well as the luck-egalitarian theories of justice that developed in its wake. Here, readings will include pieces by Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin, and G.A. Cohen

  • Texts/Readings: John Rawls, A Theory of Justice; articles or book chapters by Elizabeth Anderson, G.A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, Harry Frankfurt, Robert Nozick, Susan Okin, and Derek Parfit.
  • Assessment: Participation in a weekly 60-min Zoom seminar session and subsequent online discussion forum, 40%; a group take-home midterm, 20%; 2 essays, 20% each; 1-2 micro-assignments, each worth a 2% bonus.  **This is breakdown in tentative; it is subject to change.**
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: PHIL 257/6.0 or permission of the Department

Instructor: Deborah Knight

WINTER (3.0)

The philosophy of mind asks what the mind is, how it is related to the body, and just what sorts of things mental events and mental properties are. The course begins with Descartes’s claim that minds are separate from bodies, and Gilbert Ryle’s rejection of Cartesian dualism. If Ryle is right and dualism is wrong, how exactly should we understand a materially embodied mind? What would a non-dualistic philosophy of mind look like? We consider several answers including functionalism and other non-reductive physicalisms.

Next we turn to a powerful descriptive theory known as “folk psychology,” which focuses on our capacity to explain and predict our own and each other’s behaviour. The idea here is to use observable phenomena (for instance, a person’s actions) as evidence for the attribution of mental states such as beliefs and desires. We will consider folk psychology as a theory of mind.

But there is more to our mental lives than just being in possession of beliefs and desires. We will examine four additional aspects of human experience that help us to fill out our theory of mind: qualia (the phenomenal or felt-sense of our experience), emotions, weakness of the will, and self-deception.

We will conclude by considering further developments in folk psychological explanation and the question of what justifies our sense of ourselves as unified beings that persist over time.

  • Texts/Readings: Course readings will be available through Queen’s Library’s E-reserves and linked to our OnQ site.
  • Assessment: Students can expect to write some combination of shorter and longer assignments. The objective is to develop skills of critical analysis.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: PHIL 250/6.0 or permission of the Department.

Instructor: Adele Mercier

SPRING (3.0)

The course will be a reading-intensive survey of foundational texts in the philosophy of language, exploring ways in which thought, language and the world are connected where they are, and aren’t, where they are not. Through the writings of classical figures Frege, Russell, Donnellan, Kripke, Putnam, Chomsky, the course will explore notions of the mental versus the psychological, the objective versus the subjective, direct versus indirect reference, the social language or dialect versus the individual idiolect, the role of experts in our mental life. 

  • Requirements: Reading summaries, midterm test, final exam. 
  • Prerequisites: 361 & 362 or equivalent by permission of instructor.
  • NOTE:  Availability in timetabled slots is expected for this course.

Instructor: Adele Mercier

Fall (3.0)

The course will cover the full polyadic predicate calculus with identity and definite descriptions, otherwise known as Basic Logic for Philosophers. One focus will be on skill development in translation from (ambiguous, vague, contextual) English into (unambiguous, fully perspicuous, eternal) logical formalization, expanded to various quantifiers (universal, existential, definite) practicing the important logical and cognitive notion of scope. This skill enhances clarity, rigour, and complexity in thought. Another focus will be on skill development in various techniques of formal reasoning: syntactic derivation and semantic inference methods; model theory and invalidity proofs. This skill enhances understanding of validity and invalidity, and improves cognitive reasoning abilities through variety and reenforcement.

  • Requisite: Hard work and dedication. The course requires the use of a remarkable interactive computer program from UCLA available for free, which takes a bit of getting used to but is immensely beneficial. The course is exercise-based. It is not enough to be passively competent with the Language of Logic for it to enhance one’s reasoning abilities. One must be actively fluent in it. The numerous exercises teach and practice every facet and subtlety of English syntax, and the mistakes of reasoning to which humans are prone.
  • Requirements: Bi-weekly tests, and a final exam.
  • Prerequisites: Full propositional logic, including facility with translations of English and boolean operators (conjunctions, disjunctions, conditionals) and with formal manipulation of rules of inference. High marks and motivation in 361, or permission of instructor.
  • NOTE:  Availability in timetabled slots is expected for this course.

Instructor: Joe Breidenstein

WINTER (3.0)

In this course, we will examine three works of contemporary Jewish philosophy. First, we will explore the themes of dialogue and revelation in Martin Buber’s I and Thou, paying close attention to Buber’s account of humanity’s capacity to enter into dialogue with both nature and god so as to develop a phenomenology of religious experience. Second, we will turn towards Hannah Arendt’s controversial account of evil in Eichmann in Jerusalem so as to appreciate what can happen when people sever their dialogical connection with each other, nature, and god. Finally, we will examine Dialectic of Enlightenment in which Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer describe both the destructive nature of secular rationalism and how the domineering tendency of western modernity arises from a fear of the mystical unknown. This course is scheduled to be on campus but, if it is taught online, then it will primarily be asynchronous so that students can learn at their own pace and at the times which are most convenient for them.   

  • Texts/Readings:
    • Martin Buber's I and Thou
    • Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil
    • Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment
  • Assessment: Grades will primarily be determined by three essays of approximately 1,500 words each and, possibly, several shorter assignments will provide opportunities for extra credit. Although this format may change, the course will be structured so as to provide students with as much time and assistance as possible to help them develop their philosophical writing skills.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: (6.0 units in PHIL or JWST) or permission of the Department

Instructor: Paul Fairfield

WINTER (3.0)

This lecture course provides an analysis of a few texts in continental European philosophy between 1960 and today. We shall study one book each by Hans-Georg Gadamer, Michel Foucault, and Jeff Mitscherling and Paul Fairfield. Major topics will include phenomenology, hermeneutics, poststructuralism, aesthetics and artistic creation, among others. The format will be lecture with discussion.

  • Texts/Readings: 
    • Hans-Georg Gadamer, Reason in the Age of Science
    • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality volume 1: An Introduction
    • Jeff Mitscherling and Paul Fairfield, Artistic Creation: A Phenomenological Account
  • Assessment: Students may write either one longer or two shorter essays which will count for 100% of the grade in the course—either one essay of approximately 6000-7000 words, to be worth 100% of the grade, or two essays of half that length and worth 50% each. Essays will be graded on the basis of quality of argumentation/interpretation and writing style.
  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: Level 3 or above

Instructor: Daryn Lehoux

WINTER (3.0)

This course will tackle some of the basic epistemological and metaphysical problems that confront us when we think about science: What do the sciences tell us about the world and how do they tell us? What kinds of access do observations and experiments give us to ‘the way things are’? How is theory built upon observation and experiment? How much confidence can we have in different theories? What is science, even, and can it be distinguished from non-scientific or pseudo-scientific practices?

  • Learning Hours: 120 (36L;84P)
  • Prerequisite: Level 3 or above

Instructor: Kerah Gordon-Solmon 


This is a full year, 6.0-credit ‘skills’ course, for 3rd and 4th year Philosophy majors.  The fall term will provide intensive training in reading, discussing, and especially, writing philosophy.  In the winter term, students will share their writing skills, honed in the fall term, with 1st-year students, by serving as writing tutors for PHIL 111.
Each year, the fall-term syllabus will be constructed around one (or more) of the department's core areas: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, or history.  The particular area will vary from year to year.  This year, the area is ethics; the theme is duties, constraints, prerogatives, and permissions.

Fall Topic: Here are some innocuous claims.  Some states of affairs are better than others, in virtue of being better for persons than others.  (For example, states of affairs in which we suffer less are better, other things equal, than those in which we suffer more.)  We have presumptive moral reason to help bring about better states of affairs, which will sometimes be decisive.  But we also have prerogatives to favour our own interests, sometimes at the expense of what is impartially best. Third, and lastly, we are subject to moral constraints, which limit what we can do in pursuit of our own, or others’, good. Again, none these claims is terribly controversial.  Nevertheless, taken together, they give rise to various puzzles, and even paradoxes.  Our task will be to work through some of these (in particular, their treatments in the contemporary literature), and toward a better understanding of duties, constraints, prerogatives, and permissions.

  • Texts/Readings: All readings will be available on OnQ.
  • Assessment/Fall term: Written argument reconstructions (2 total); argument reconstruction rewrites, supplemented with critiques (2 total); final essay; optional final essay rewrite; participation (in a weekly Zoom seminar session; possibly also in online discussion forums); presentation
  • Assessment/Winter Term: Practicum performance. Note that we will not meet weekly during the winter term; practicum hours and occasional class meetings will be scheduled around students’ other academic commitments.
  • Learning Hours: 228 (36S;42Pc;144P)
  • Prerequisite: Registration in a Philosophy Major Plan and (A GPA of 3.0 in each of PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0). Must have permission from instructor.

Note: Admission to this course is by application. To apply, please (1) e-mail Professor Gordon-Solmon (kg59@queensu.ca) explaining your interest in the course, (2) arrange for an e-mailed letter of recommendation to be Professor Gordon-Solmon from one of your previous philosophy professors, and (3) instruct the Philosophy department (at philug@queensu.ca) to share your transcript with Professor Gordon-Solmon.  Qualified students will be selected for enrolment based on a combination of criteria, including the strength of their application letter and reference letter, and overall academic record to date.  Priority will be given to students who submit their application letters by July 15, 2020; after July 15, applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the class is full. 

Instructor: Christine 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. 

This year the course will be designed for remote delivery, with differently scheduled online meetings and/or recorded sessions to ensure access for all students.  Placements are likely to be remote, though it is possible that some placements will be in person, with students expected to follow necessary health and safety protocols. 

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

Go to this link for more information about the course, community placements, and how to apply.