400 Level Courses

2024-25

PHIL 405  
Social and Political Philosophy II
Winter - IN PERSON
Will Kymlicka

Topic: Membership and Solidarity

An examination of major issues in contemporary social and political philosophy. Possible topics to be studied include communitarianism, liberalism, multi-culturalism, the nation-state, and utopias.

Texts/Readings: Weekly readings available online

Assessment: Comment sheets, participation and class presentation, final paper

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 406
Walls to Bridges - Socio-legal Issues
Winter - IN PERSON
Nicole Myers

Note: Application required. 

Walls to Bridges Application (DOC, 18KB)

Walls to Bridges is an experiential learning course that brings together students from Queen’s University (‘outside students’) with students from Collins Bay Minimum Security Institution (‘inside students’) to learn and share knowledge based on their lived experience and critical analysis of academic scholarship. In this course, students will explore the complexities of criminalization and punishment through reflection, discussion, reading, and activity-based learning. This is a transformational educational experience that draws upon lived experience as a source of philosophical knowledge and challenges the artificial boundaries between people who are experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.

The course uses a learning circle format.  An agenda will be prepared to guide the class discussion; however, the class is expected to lead the discussion, reflecting upon course readings and connecting the content of these readings to lived experiences. Group work, active participation and open listening are essential components of the course.

See http://wallstobridges.ca for more information about the W2B program.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 407
Walls to Bridges - Philosophical Issues  
Fall - IN PERSON
Lisa Guenther

Note: Application required. 

Walls to Bridges Application (DOC, 18KB)

Walls to Bridges is an experiential learning course that brings together students from Queen’s University (‘outside students’) with students from Collins Bay Minimum Security Institution (‘inside students’) to learn and share knowledge based on their lived experience and critical analysis of academic scholarship. In this course, students will explore the complexities of criminalization and punishment through reflection, discussion, reading, and activity-based learning. This is a transformational educational experience that draws upon lived experience as a source of philosophical knowledge and challenges the artificial boundaries between people who are experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.

The course uses a learning circle format.  An agenda will be prepared to guide the class discussion; however, the class is expected to lead the discussion, reflecting upon course readings and connecting the content of these readings to lived experiences. Group work, active participation and open listening are essential components of the course.

See http://wallstobridges.ca for more information about the W2B program.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 408
Topics in Philosophy of Law  
Winter - IN PERSON
Dalisto Ruwe

Recent debates in the U.S and Canada have centred on concerns about Critical Race Theory and its impact on race-relations and the way history is taught within the K-12 system. This class will be an exploration of the origins of Critical Race Theory beginning with the concerns that Derrick Bell the progenitor of Critical Race Theory had about American education and the legal systems inability to rectify the crimes committed against Black people.

Texts/Readings: Will be provided to students.

Assessment: Two short exams each worth 25 percent of the grade and a final research paper worth 50 percent

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 410
History of Philosophy I
Fall - IN PERSON
Ram Murty

Topic: Indian Philosophy

We will study primarily yoga philosophies that deal with epistemology and the philosophy of the mind. The six systems of Indian philosophy offer a framework through which the mind and its functions can be studied. We will focus on three of these systems: Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta as well as the Bhagavadgita and study the writings of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan and Moore that pertain to these themes expanding on the Yoga philosophies in its widest sense.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 412
Topics in Philosophy of Culture
Winter - IN PERSON
Dolleen Manning

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of culture. Possible topics to be studied include: the history of the philosophy of culture;  the relationship between culture and identity or the self; the relationship between culture and progress; and various forms of cultural relativism.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 420
Ethical Issues
Fall - IN PERSON
Udo Schuklenk

We will discuss in each class a limited number of specific topics in bioethics. Typically, in this course, the topics are student-initiated. We have, in past installments of this course, covered a wide variety of issues, ranging from gender reassignment to the criminalisation of HIV transmission to standards of care in a trial, global health aid obligations and MAiD for patients with refractory depression.

You are encouraged to work on a topic/question that is of genuine interest to you, and focus on that, both in your classroom presentation as well as in what will be your only major written piece of work, namely an extended essay (5000 words). In the essay you are required to defend a clear thesis, reviewing arguments without taking and defending a stance won’t cut it.

I will cover the first 3-4 weeks with lectures and readings, after that it will be your turn.

The structure of each class is: 20-30 min presentations per topic (by me or you), rebuttal (10-15 min by students assigned that task in advance), general classroom discussion. The required readings will be agreed on in advance of the class. The objective of these presentations is to ‘test-run’ your essay arguments. The presentation will be on the same topic as your essay.

Reconsider taking this course if presenting content and subjecting yourself to a lively discussion of your views might pose a challenge you’d rather not face.

Reconsider taking this course if the thought of having to write a coherent 5000 or 6000 word argument in support of a position you need to defend/argue for might not be your thing.

Everyone else: come on in. The course is usually enjoyed by those taking it.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 440
20th Century Philosophy I
Fall - IN PERSON
Lisa Guenther

An examination of major issues in 20th century philosophy, with a possible focus on the continental tradition (including, in particular, the phenomenological tradition). Theorists may include Fanon, Heidegger, Husserl, Levinas or Merleau-Ponty.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 441
20th Century Philosophy II
Winter - IN PERSON
Josh Mozersky

An examination of major issues in 20th century philosophy. Possible topics to be studied include debates about modality, the development of logic, the natural language movement, pragmatism and verificationism.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 451
Current Issues in Epistemology
Winter - IN PERSON
Sergio Sismondo

We’re going to study conspiracy theories. What makes some narratives conspiracy theories? What, if anything, makes conspiracy theories different from other narratives about power in our societies? We’ll be approaching the topic assuming that we can reasonably study the causes of the credibility of conspiracy theories using the same tools and intellectual resources as we might study the causes of the credibility of any other kind of belief. This means that we’ll be approaching conspiracy theories with a combination of generosity and critical analysis. Some background reading should help us to do this.

This is a seminar course. Students will be responsible for becoming experts on particular conspiracy theories, and for teaching their peers about those theories.

Texts/Readings: multiple readings, mostly available online

Assessment: Evaluation will be based on a combination of a seminar presentation, class participation and a final research paper.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 470
Topics in Philosophy of Science
Winter - IN PERSON
Catherine Stinson

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of science. Possible topics to be considered include explanation, realism versus instrumentalism scientific progress, the social dimensions of science and the unity of the sciences.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 473
Topics in Philosophy of Logic
Fall - IN PERSON
Adele Mercier

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of logic. Possible topics to be considered include deviant logics, the nature of identity, modal logics and the paradoxes of material implication and strict conditionals.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

PHIL 493
Ethics and the Environment
Fall - IN PERSON
Mick Smith

This course will engage with key environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction, climate change, conservation, eco-feminism, deep and radical ecology, ecological restoration etc. 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.

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

Requirements: Prerequisite {(Level 4 or above and PHIL 250/6.0 and PHIL 257/6.0 and [a minimum CGPA of 2.40] or [a minimum GPA of 2.70 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 Joint Honours Plan and 6.0 units of PHIL at the 300-level] or [registration in an ENVS Joint Honours Plan or an ENSC Major or an ENSC, EGPY, EBIO, ECHM, EGEO, ELSC, or ETOX Specialization Plan])}.  

Offering Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Science  

2023-24

PHIL 404             
Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Topic: Interspecies Politics

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 into 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.

PHIL 405             
Current Issues in Social and Political Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. Now

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 struggle. Among other things, we fill focus on the actions taken by the Wet'suwet'en land defenders, the movement to remove John A MacDonald statues and to defund/abolish the police.

Assessment: Weekly discussion questions, at least one class presentation/video; 2 papers or 1 longer paper.

 

PHIL 406 (Taught jointly with SOCY 406)              
Walls to Bridges
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Note: Application required. Due June 1, 2023.

Walls to Bridges Application (DOC, 18KB)

 

Walls to Bridges is an experiential learning course that brings together students from Queen’s University (‘outside students’) with students from Collins Bay Minimum Security Institution (‘inside students’) to learn and share knowledge based on their lived experience and critical analysis of academic scholarship. In this course, students will explore the complexities of criminalization and punishment through reflection, discussion, reading, and activity-based learning. This is a transformational educational experience that draws upon lived experience as a source of philosophical knowledge and challenges the artificial boundaries between people who are experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.

The course uses a learning circle format.  An agenda will be prepared to guide the class discussion; however, the class is expected to lead the discussion, reflecting upon course readings and connecting the content of these readings to lived experiences. Group work, active participation and open listening are essential components of the course.

See http://wallstobridges.ca for more information about the W2B program.

PHIL 407 (Taught jointly with SOCY 407)              
Walls to Bridges
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Note: Application required. Due June 1, 2023.

Walls to Bridges Application (DOC, 18KB)

 

Walls to Bridges is an experiential learning course that brings together students from Queen’s University (‘outside students’) with students from Collins Bay Minimum Security Institution (‘inside students’) to learn and share knowledge based on their lived experience and critical analysis of academic scholarship. In this course, students will explore the complexities of criminalization and punishment through reflection, discussion, reading, and activity-based learning. This is a transformational educational experience that draws upon lived experience as a source of philosophical knowledge and challenges the artificial boundaries between people who are experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.

The course uses a learning circle format.  An agenda will be prepared to guide the class discussion; however, the class is expected to lead the discussion, reflecting upon course readings and connecting the content of these readings to lived experiences. Group work, active participation and open listening are essential components of the course.

See http://wallstobridges.ca for more information about the W2B program.

PHIL 410             
Topics in the History of Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Topic: Indian Philosophy

We will study primarily yoga philosophies that deal with epistemology and the philosophy of the mind. The six systems of Indian philosophy offer a framework through which the mind and its functions can be studied. We will focus on three of these systems: Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta as well as the Bhagavadgita and study the writings of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan and Moore that pertain to these themes expanding on the Yoga philosophies in its widest sense.

PHIL 412             
Topics in the Philosophy of Culture
WINTER – IN PERSON
 

An examination of major issues in the philosophy of culture. Possible topics to be studied include: the history of the philosophy of culture; the relationship between culture and identity or the self; the relationship between culture and progress; and various forms of cultural relativism.

PHIL 420             
Ethical Issues
WINTER – IN PERSON
 

We will discuss in each class a limited number of specific topics in bioethics. Typically, in this course, the topics are student-initiated. We have, in past installments of this course, covered a wide variety of issues, ranging from gender reassignment to the criminalisation of HIV transmission to standards of care in a trial, global health aid obligations and MAiD for patients with refractory depression.

You are encouraged to work on a topic/question that is of genuine interest to you, and focus on that, both in your classroom presentation as well as in what will be your only major written piece of work, namely an extended essay (5000 words for PHIL420 students, 6000 words for PHIL820 students). In the essay you are required to defend a clear thesis, reviewing arguments without taking and defending a stance won’t cut it.

I will cover the first 3-4 weeks with lectures and readings, after that it will be your turn.

The structure of each class is: 20-30 min presentations per topic (by me or you), rebuttal (10-15 min by students assigned that task in advance), general classroom discussion. The required readings will be agreed on in advance of the class. The objective of these presentations is to ‘test-run’ your essay arguments. The presentation will be on the same topic as your essay.

Reconsider taking this course if presenting content and subjecting yourself to a lively discussion of your views might pose a challenge you’d rather not face.

Reconsider taking this course if the thought of having to write a coherent 5000 or 6000 word argument in support of a position you need to defend/argue for might not be your thing.

Everyone else: come on in. The course is usually enjoyed by those taking it.

In case you’d like to get a head-start, contact me during the summer term to lock in your topic and presentation date. I operate a first come first served policy. You can reach me at  udo.schuklenk@pm.me

Texts/Readings: Given that we will have readings based on the essay topics/questions you wish to address, there won’t be a prescribed text. We typically pick one or two peer reviewed journal articles to study in preparation for a given classroom presentation. You will access those prescribed readings journal articles using library resources.

Assessment Essay: 40% of overall grade

Presentation: 20% of overall grade

Rebuttal: 15% of overall grade

Weekly Required Readings Question: 10% of overall grade

Classroom participation: 15% of overall grade

PHIL 440            
Twentieth Century Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Topic: Analytic Philosophy: Its Origins, Scope, and Prospects

In the West, the dominant philosophical outlook of the 19th Century was Idealism, the view that everything is, ultimately, mental, or, on some versions, that only the contents of our own minds are knowable.  The early part of the 20th Century witnessed the birth of a new approach, eventually called Analytic Philosophy, that was, in large part, the rejection of the idealism of the previous era.  The turn away from idealism was accompanied, and encouraged, by two early 20th Century revolutions.  The first was the rise of modern physics, with the introduction of Relativity Theory and Quantum Mechanics.  The second was the birth of modern mathematical logic.  Both were important to the early analytic philosophers, but it is the latter that was especially influential because the pioneers of the analytic movement, such as Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, took great inspiration from the works of the mathematician Gottlob Frege, whose works sit at the foundations of modern logic, computer science, and Analytic Philosophy.

This course is an in-depth study of analytic philosophy’s birth, development, and influence on 20th Century thought.  We begin with a brief overview of 19th Century views on the nature of mathematics and mathematical knowledge.  We then turn to the pivotal works of Frege on the foundations of arithmetic, and its extensions to his theories of meaning and thought.  Next, we take a look at the ideas of Russell and Wittgenstein that took off from Frege’s works.  We end with an examination of some of the most influential analytic works from the middle and later 20th Century, with an eye toward understanding the strengths, limits, and prospects of the movement.

Pre-requisite: PHIL 260, 266, equivalent course, or permission of instructor.

 

PHIL 441             
Twentieth Century Philosophy
FALL – IN PERSON
 

Topic: Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a philosophical practice of reflecting on the transcendental structures that make lived experience possible and meaningful.  It begins by bracketing the natural attitude, or the naïve assumption that the world exists apart from consciousness, and “reducing” this everyday experience of the world to the basic structures that constitute its meaning and coherence.  In this sense, phenomenology points us in a critical direction.  But where classical phenomenology remains insufficiently critical is in failing to give an equally rigorous account of how contingent historical and social structures also shape our experience, not just empirically or in a piecemeal fashion, but in a way that is so fundamental, we could call it quasi-transcendental.  Structures such as patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity permeate, organize, and reproduce the natural attitude in ways that go beyond any particular object of thought.  They are not things to be seen, but rather ways of seeing, and even ways of making the world that go unnoticed without a sustained practice of critical reflection to make them visible.  In this seminar, we will learn the basic concepts of classical phenomenology and explore the possibilities for critical phenomenology in the work of Frantz Fanon, Sara Ahmed, Gayle Salamon, Alia Al-Saji, and others.   

Presentation (20%)

10 Weekly Discussion Posts (total 20%)

Participation (10%)

Final Paper (50%)

PHIL 445             
Major Figures I
WINTER – IN PERSON
 

Topic: The Philosophy of Levinas

Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) is a major figure in contemporary continental philosophy, ethics and phenomenology. This seminar offers an introduction to his groundbreaking work, through a careful reading of his first major book Totality and Infinity. We consider, for example, what it means to think ethics phenomenologically, what Levinas meant by “ethics as first philosophy” and the significance of the encounter with “the face of the Other.” Our study of the primary text will be supplemented by introductory level secondary sources, interviews with Levinas, and lectures situating his work in relation to such 20th century philosophers as Husserl, Heidegger, Buber, and de Beauvoir, as well as Plato and Descartes. 

Our major emphasis is on advanced philosophical reading skills, interpretation and expository writing, and deep engagement with the themes explored. 

Regular seminar attendance is expected. Evaluation is based on seminar participation, active online reading exercises, a midterm essay and final essay. 

Texts: Purchase of Totality and Infinity is essential. Print copies are available at the Campus Bookstore. Purchase of an electronic copy of William Large’s Levinas’ Totality and Infinity: A Reader’s Guide from the course’s Perusall platform is necessary  to complete reading assignments. Other electronic texts are available for free on the course website and Perusall platform.  

PHIL 451             
Current Issues in Epistemology
WINTER – IN PERSON

Topic: Conspiracy Theories

We’re going to study conspiracy theories. What makes some narratives conspiracy theories? What, if anything, makes conspiracy theories different from other narratives about power in our societies? We’ll be approaching the topic assuming that we can reasonably study the causes of the credibility of conspiracy theories using the same tools and intellectual resources as we might study the causes of the credibility of any other kind of belief. This means that we’ll be approaching conspiracy theories with a combination of generosity and critical analysis. Some background reading should help us to do this.

This is a seminar course. Students will be responsible for becoming experts on particular conspiracy theories, and for teaching their peers about those theories.

Texts/Readings: multiple readings, mostly available online

Assessment: Evaluation will be based on a combination of a seminar presentation, class participation and a final research paper.

PHIL 452             
Current Issues in Metaphysics
WINTER – IN PERSON
 

What were once referred to as The Elements have become known more recently as the elements and compounds of chemistry. The roles of these substances, not only in the constitution of our bodies and the condition of our planet, but also in the evolution of the cosmos, are central to all three distinct if connected studies. The ancient pre-Socratic notion of an element is very close, for all intents and purposes, to the current notion of a ‘pure chemical’ (or substance – in effect, the notion of an ‘element’, so-called, or compound). Indeed, in identifying water as just such a kind of stuff or ‘element’, the pre-Socratics were already 25% correct. What the ancient notion of an element rules out, among stuff in general, is nothing but the mixtures (for which there are, of course, no theoretical or law-like principles). However, what the pre-Socratics were about, in these endeavours, was not the philosophy of chemistry; that science did not yet exist. Rather, it was an early form of metaphysics, or maybe, more appropriately, metachemistry – an attempt to elucidate the ontic category that such things as water, gold and salt exemplify. Perhaps the most profound attempt to to understand the general category such substances represent is that of Anaximander, who speaks of te Apeiron , ‘the unbounded’ or ‘the Boundless’. Unfortunately however, as things turned out historically, the pre-Socratic efforts were effectively undermined by Aristotle, for whom concrete individual things – and not the stuff they are composed of – becomes the fundamental level of reality. Ironically, a kind of Aristotelian doctrine continues to dominate in analytical philosophy, and even in the abstract form of logic. One consequence of this is that the notion of a substance in an everyday and scientific sense cannot be understood or ‘admitted’ to the realm of ontic categories. Water, the liquid we both drink and swim in, becomes a mere abstraction. But this situation calls for serious re-thinking, not only of what the realm of ontic categories actually contains, but also of just what is wrong with the dominance of an atomistic logic of concrete individual things – what Quine refers to as the ‘canonical notation’. This rethinking was begun by Otto Jespersen, the distinguished Danish linguist, whose work marks the beginning of a much-needed re-examination and philosophical re-thinking.

PHIL 464             
Topics in Philosophy of Mind
WINTER – IN PERSON
 

PHIL 466             
Topics in Philosophy of Art
FALL – IN PERSON
 

This course will address topics in philosophical aesthetics such as questions of taste and judgement, the nature of aesthetic concepts, and how these apply to areas such as the natural environment, the human environment, and the everyday.

Texts/Readings Course readings will be available through Queen’s Library’s E-reserves and linked to our OnQ site.

Assessment will be based on assignments such as weekly comment sheets, a seminar presentation, and a final essay.

PHIL 493             
Ethics and the Environment
Fall – IN PERSON
 

This course will engage with key environmental issues such as biodiversity and extinction, climate change, conservation, eco-feminism, deep and radical ecology, ecological restoration etc. 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.