Colin Farrelly

Colin Farrelly



PhD (Bristol); MA, BA (McMaster)

Political Studies & Philosophy

Political Theory

Arts and Science

Phone: (613) 533-6243

Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room 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).

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. developing an account of “pandemic justice” which brings attention to the non-ideal realities of balancing the mortality risks posed by COVID-19 with the physical and mental health risks, and educational and economic costs, of the mitigation measures (e.g. stay-at-home orders, school closures, face mask mandates, social distancing, hand washing, etc.) designed to slow the transmission of the virus. 
  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.  

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


POLS 250 Introduction to Political Theory (Fall 2022)

POLS 492 The Politics of Pandemics and Epidemics (Fall 2022)

POLS 857 Science and Justice (Fall 2022)

For more details on political studies courses, please refer to the Undergraduate and Graduate pages. 

Service (2022/2023)

  • Field Convenor (Theory)

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: 

  • “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