Colin Farrelly

Colin Farrelly

Professor | Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Theory


PhD (Bristol); MA, BA (McMaster)

Political Studies & Philosophy

Political Theory

Professor | Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Theory

Phone: (613) 533-6243

Mackintosh-Corry Hall, C400

Queen's National Scholar

People Directory Affiliation Category

Colin Farrelly Curriculum Vitae

Colin is a political theorist and philosopher. 

Research Interests

The foundational aspiration of Colin’s research is the advancement of the Enlightenment Project into the 21st century.  The themes of reason, science, progress, and optimism inform his curiosity-driven research interests and interdisciplinary focus.

Main research interests are: Ethics and political theory/philosophy, including distributive justice; ideal/non-ideal theory; history of political thought, deliberative democracy; all things virtue-related: virtue ethics, virtue epistemology, and virtue jurisprudence; Analytical Marxism; play; science and justice - especially the biomedical sciences (e.g. genetics, evolutionary biology, “geroscience” and the ethics of human enhancement).

Colin Farrelly is interested in supervising students interested in research projects at the intersection of political theory and advances in the biomedical sciences and/or public health ethics and policy. 

Brief Biography

Colin received his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol in England in 1999.  Over his 20-year academic career, he has held academic appointments in 10 different departments in Political Science, Philosophy, and Public Policy in England, Scotland, the United States, and Canada. Previous appointments include Visiting Professor in UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs, Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Manoa in Hawaii, Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, Visitor in Oxford’s Program on Ethics and the New Biosciences, as well as permanent academic appointments at Waterloo University, Manchester University and the University of Birmingham.  For the past 5 years, Colin has been involved in teaching philosophy to male inmates. 

The author and editor of 6 books and approximately 50 journal articles, Colin’s publications include articles in journals in political science, philosophy, feminism, law, science, and medicine. He has published on a diverse array of topics, including the health challenges posed by population aging, the creation and evolution of patriarchy, virtue ethics, virtue epistemology, virtue jurisprudence, play and politics, freedom of expression, judicial review, non-ideal theory, gene patents, deliberative democracy, nanotechnology, sex selection, toleration, a citizen’s basic income, enhancing soldiers and economic incentives.  

Colin is currently working on the following three major research projects: 

  1. a new textbook titled Classics in Political Philosophy for Today (under contract with Hackett Publishing) which covers a range of political thinkers from Plato through to MLK, Jr. The book encourages students to engage with, and critically reflect upon, the contemporary significance of the history of Western political thought.     
  2. research for a new manuscript on the social significance of “geroscience”- the science of healthy aging.  This multi-year project examines the limitations of public health’s “War Against Disease”- covering not only the war against infectious diseases (such as COVID-19), but also the wars against cancer and obesity.  It also canvasses the progression of a century of experimental scientific research on modulating aging, from dietary restriction and genetic manipulation in laboratory organisms, to pharmacological interventions in humans.  
  3. developing an account of a “realistic utopia” that focuses on the developmental potential of play- physical, social, and imaginative play.  This project relies on insights from evolutionary biology and positive psychology, as well as philosophy and the history of political thought.  


For detailed information about political studies courses and instructors, please refer to the Undergraduate and Graduate pages. 

Service (2023/2024)

  • The Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Theory
  • Appointments Committee 
  • Departmental Committee
  • Field Convenor (Theory)
  • Renewal, Tenure and Promotion (RTP) Committee

Selected Publications


Genetic Ethics: An Introduction (Polity Books, 2018)

Biologically Modified Justice  (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Virtue Jurisprudence (co-edited with Lawrence Solum) (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).

Justice, Democracy and Reasonable Agreement (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).

An Introduction to Contemporary Political Theory (London: Sage Publications, 2004).

Contemporary Political Theory: A Reader (editor) (London: Sage Publications, 2004). 

Sample of Journal Articles and Book Chapters: 

Colin Farrelly, “From Sanitation Science to Geroscience: Public Health Must Transcend ‘Folkbiology’” (forthcoming) Public Health Ethics.  

Colin Farrelly (2023). “Geroscience and climate science: Oppositional or complementary?”. Aging cell, 22(8), e13890. [access article

Colin Farrelly, “Idealism and Imagination in the Medical Sciences of an Ageing World” Journal of Medical Ethics 2023, 49(4): 271-74. [access article

Colin Farrelly (2023). Geroscience and Public Health's Plastic "Ecology of Ideas". The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 78(5), 793–797. [access article

Colin Farrelly (2022). Aging, Equality and the Human Healthspan. HEC forum : an interdisciplinary journal on hospitals' ethical and legal issues, 1-19. [access article]

Colin Farrelly, “Post-Protean” Public Health and the Geroscience Hypothesis” (forthcoming) Aging and Disease[access article] 

Colin Farrelly, “Longevity Science and Women’s Health and Wellbeing.” Journal of population ageing, 1-20. 30 Jan. 2023. [access article

Colin Farrelly, “Framing Longevity Science and an “Aging Enhancement”” in The Routledge Handbook of the Ethics of Human Enhancement (edited by Fabrice Jotterand, Marcello Ienca) (Routledge: 2023).  

“Responsible Biology, Aging Populations and the 50th Anniversary of the “War on Cancer”” Biogerontology 2021 Aug;22(4):429-440 (access online for free).

“How Should We Theorize About Justice in the Genomic Era?” in Politics and the Life Sciences 40(1) (2021): 106-25.   

"50 Years of the War on Cancer: Lessons for Public Health and Geroscience” Geroscience. 2021 Jun;43(3):1229-1235 (access online for free).  

“COVID-19, Biogerontology and the Ageing of Humanity” The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2021, 76(8), e92–e96.  (access online for free).

Tyler J. Vander Weele, Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, Paul Allin, Colin Farrelly et al. “Current Recommendations on the Selection of Measures for Well-being” Preventive Medicine Vol 133, April 2020. [access online for free]

Tyler J. Vander Weele, Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald, Paul Allin, Colin Farrelly et al. “Brief Well-being Assessments, or Nothing at All? Preventive Medicine Vol 135, June 2020.

“Toleration, “Mindsight” and the Epistemic Virtues” (forthcoming) in The Palgrave Handbook on Toleration.

“Positive Biology” and Well-Ordered Science” in Measuring Well-Being: Interdisciplinary Perspectives from the Social Sciences and the Humanities (edited by Matthew Lee, Laura Kubzansky, and Tyler VanderWeele) (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2020).

“The “Focusing Illusion” of Rawlsian Ideal Theory” in John Rawls: Debating the Major Questions (edited by Sarah Roberts-Cady and Jon Mandle) (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2020). 

“Insulating Soldiers from the Emotional Costs of War:  An Ethical Analysis” forthcoming in Transhumanizing War: Performance Enhancement and the Implications for Policy, the Soldier, and Society (eds. C. Breede, S. von Hlatky and S. Bélanger) (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019).

“Aging, Geroscience and Freedom” Rejuvenation Research 22(2) 2019:  163-170.

"Gene Patents and the Social Justice Lens” American Journal of Bioethics 18(12) (2018): 49-51.

“Virtue Epistemology and the Democratic Life” in The Oxford Handbook to Virtue (edited by Cynthia Snow) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 

“Justice and Life Extension” in End-of-Life Ethics (edited by John Davis) (New York, NY: Routledge Publishing, 2016). 

“International Political and Economic Structures:  Book Symposium Contribution on Mathias Risse’s On Global Justice” The Ethics Forum 8(2) (2013): 41–52. 

“Empirical Ethics and the Duty to Extend the Biological Warranty Period” Social Philosophy and Policy 30 (2013): 480-503.

“Play and Politics” Journal of Political Science Education 9(4) (2013): 487-500.  

“Normative Theorizing about Genetics” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 22(4) (2013): 408-419.

“Why the NIH Should Create an Institute of Positive Biology” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 105 (2012): 412-15.

“Biogerontology and the Intellectual Virtues” Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences 67(7) (2012): 734-46.

"Positive Biology” as a New Paradigm for the Medical Sciences” Nature’s EMBO Reports 13(2) (2012): 186-88.

“Virtue Epistemology and the “Epistemic Fitness” of Democracy” Political Studies Review 10(1) (2012): 7-22.

“Patriarchy and Historical Materialism” Hypatia 26(1) (2011): 1-21.

“Global Aging, Well-Ordered Science and Prospection” Rejuvenation Research 13(5) (2010):607-12.

“Equality and the Duty to Retard Human Aging” Bioethics 24(8) (2010): 384-94.

“Why Aging Research?” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1197 (2010): 1–8.

“Framing the Inborn Aging Process and Longevity Science” Biogerontology 11(3) (2010): 377-85.

“Has the Time Come to Take on Time Itself?” British Medical Journal 337 (2008):147-48.  

“A Tale of Two Strategies: The Moral Imperative to Tackle Ageing” Nature’s EMBO Reports 9(7) (2008): 592-95.

“The Institutional Theory of Legal Interpretation” University of Toronto Law Journal 58(2) (2008): 217-32.

“Justice in Ideal Theory: A Refutation” Political Studies 55 (2007): 844–864.

“Preparing for Our Enhanced Future” Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline 93(2) (2007):12-18.

“Deliberative Democracy and Nanotechnology” Nanoethics: Examining the Societal Impact of Nanotechnology (NJ: John Wiley and Sons Inc., 2007) edited by Fritz Allhoff, Patrick Lin, James Moor and John Weckert.

Podcast Interviews Include: 

What on Earth is Going On? Episode 86  

CFRC Right of Reply interview  

"Geroscience and Political Imagination: The Science of Healthy Aging" :: Inaugural Peacock Lecture :: March 8, 2024

Colin Farrelly delivers his inaugural Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Theory lecture

Research Highlight with Colin Farrelly

Professor Colin Farrelly discusses his current research.

TEDx Talk on Global Aging and Longevity Science (Feb. 2019, Queen’s University)