400 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. 

Instructors: Ian Keay, Andrew Lister, Christine 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.

Texts/Readings: 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


  • 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.

Instructor: Meena Krishnamurthy

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. Now

FALL (3.0)

The classes will be synchronous.

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.

  • Texts/Readings: 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.
  • Assessment: Weekly discussion questions, at least one class presentation/video; 2 papers or 1 longer paper
  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Will 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.

  • Texts/Readings: All readings will be electronically accessible
  • Assessment: Seminar presentation; comment sheets; and term paper
  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Aaron J. Wendland

Topic: Public Philosophy

WINTER (3.0)

Public philosophy runs on a spectrum from the popularization of philosophical ideas to the application of those ideas to daily life. This suggests public philosophy presupposes the esoteric work done by philosophers within the academy, but in a way that is consistent with the practice of Socrates, public engagement is simultaneously an inspiration for much academic research. In short, there is a dialectical relation between academic and public philosophy insofar as analyzing the world around us through the lens of our academic work often raises new questions and motivates new academic research.  This course aims to teach senior undergraduate and graduate students how to translate the technical terminology of academic philosophy into publicly accessible prose and show them how suitably clarified philosophical ideas can be used to interpret current affairs and respond to the social and political problems we confront. The course is also designed to prepare students to work alongside editors, producers, journalists, and other media professionals as well as illustrate how the business of popular philosophy operates. Lastly, and with a little luck, this course will stimulate student interest in academic philosophy and equally indicate the way they can use philosophy to enhance the well-being of their local communities.

To achieve these aims, this class will involve a mix of academic and practical work. Six seminars will be dedicated to the analysis and discussion of philosophical texts that have a bearing on current affairs, and six seminars will be used to help students design and produce pieces of popular philosophical writing. The course will be run in conjunction with a regular philosophy column in a local paper or magazine, and each student will have the chance to commission, edit, write, and publish a piece of popular philosophy.

  • Assessment: Students will be assessed on the basis of their short essays, class participation, and editorial work on the popular philosophy column run out of a local paper or magazine.
  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Nicole Myers 

This is an experiential learning course based on the Walls to Bridges program model, which brings together students from Queen’s University (‘outside students’) with students from a local federal prison (‘inside students’) to learn and share knowledge based on their lived experience and critical analysis of academic scholarship.  Students will explore the complexities of criminalization and punishment through lived experiences and intersectional analyses. This is a transformational educational experience which draws upon lived experience as a source of theorizing as well as challenges the artificial boundaries between people experiencing imprisonment and those who are not.

This course explores the subject of “Othering” and the divisive mentalities that pit groups in opposition to one another (us versus them). Students will learn through in-class activities, readings, group discussions, journaling and other writing assignments, and individual and group assignments based on academic and non-academic (popular culture) literature and materials. There will be a particular focus on the deconstruction of the 'other' in relation to race, gender, class and poverty in the criminal justice system and the community. Students will be encouraged to examine local, national and international cases/topics and to discuss the othering process as it occurs in these cases. Students will be asked to consider how we (individually and collectively) actively engage in othering, how it works, as well as what we are trying to protect/defend by othering. Discussion of how we can resist othering will also be encouraged. It is only through open and honest discussion that we can start to unpack the othering process and how we mobilize our privilege (consciously or not) to cast certain groups as different, dangerous or other.

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 and incorporating the course readings and lived experiences. Group work, active participation and open listening are essential components of the course.

See Walls to Bridges for more information about the W2B program.  Enrollment is restricted; interested students should contact Dr. Myers as soon as possible and no later than August 12 at nicole.myers@queensu.ca

Instructor: Dolleen Manning

WINTER (3.0)

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.

  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Udo Schuklenk

WINTER (3.0)

An examination of major issues in ethics. Possible topics to be considered include political violence, coercion, punishment, immigration, suicide, drug policy, leisure and akrasia.

  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Daryn Lehoux

Topic: Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy

FALL (3.0)

This course will examine a range of Hellenistic and Roman philosophical texts, including Lucretius' On the Nature of Things and Cicero's On the Nature of the Gods. Particular focus will be on the overlaps between epistemology, physics, and ethics in these texts.

  • Assessment: Assessment format will depend on total class size. It will likely include three essays or two essays and a presentation.
  • Prerequisite: 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)]. 
  • Note: This course will be available through OnQ. Class discussions will take place during scheduled times according to the timetable, therefore student availability during timetabled slots is important. Students should expect to spend approximately 10 hours a week on classes, readings, assignments and other activities.

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.

More information about the course, community placements, and how to apply can be found at this link.

Instructor: Jon 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. 

Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Henry 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.

  • Prerequisite: 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)].

Instructor: Adele 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.

  • Requirements: Bi-weekly chapter exercises, midterm test, final exam. Graduates: research project TBD.
  • Prerequisite: 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.

Instructor: Catherine Stinson

Topic: Third Wave Artificial Intelligence

WINTER (3.0)

This course explores an emerging approach to the philosophy of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that combines the 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, and why it matters for security, whether the erosion of privacy that comes along with participation in social media and use of contemporary technology is a fair price to pay for the convenience of high tech tools, how biometric tracking technologies like facial recognition, covid-19 contact tracing, and wearables intersect with racial injustice, how the culture of silicon valley affects the technologies it produces, and whether there should be some questions that researchers are not permitted to explore.

Delivery: The course will consist of a combination of synchronous video discussions, asynchronous text discussions, independent work, and work in small groups.

  • Texts/Readings: 
    • Costanza-Chock, Design Justice
    • Douglas, “The Moral Responsibilities of Scientists”
    • Mbembe, “Necropolitics”
    • Stark, “Facial recognition is the plutonium of AI”
    • Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
    • plus readings available online, and film pairings.
  • Assessment: Details TBA. Participation in video and/or text discussions, mixed-media assignments, and a research project.
  • Prerequisite: 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)]. 

Instructor: Adele 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…).

  • Requirements: Weekly chapter exercises, midterm test, final exam. Graduates: research project TBD.
  • Prerequisites: 361 & 362 or equivalent by permission of instructor.
  • NOTE: Availability in timetabled slots is expected for this course.

Instructor: 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.

  • Prerequisite: 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)].