Queen's University

Dr. Colin Farrelly

Professor, Department of Philosophy, Department of Political Studies


I am a political theorist, philosopher, Professor, and Queen's National Scholar in the Department of Political Studies at Queen’s University. I am cross-appointed to the Department of Philosophy and I also teach in the School of Policy Studies. I received my PhD from the University of Bristol in England, and have held academic appointments in 10 different departments of Political Science, Philosophy, and Public Policy in England, Scotland, the United States, and Canada. Previous appointments include Visiting Professor at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, and 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. I have also taught political philosophy in prison during the summer term to male inmates and recently launched “Philosophy for Children and Teens-Kingston”, an initiative which engages younger minds with the value and importance of critical, analytical thinking.

I have written 6 books, and have had approximately 50 articles published in journals such as the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Medical Journal, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine,  the American Journal of Bioethics, the Canadian Journal of Political Science, and the University of Toronto Law JournalI have published on a diverse array of topics in the areas of political science, philosophy, feminism, law, science, and medicine, and my research focuses on the health challenges posed by an aging population, the creation and evolution of patriarchy, virtue jurisprudence, play and politics, freedom of expression, bioethics, judicial review, non-ideal theory, deliberative democracy, virtue epistemology, nanotechnology, sex selection, a citizen’s basic income, biologically enhancing soldiers, and economic incentives. 

I was recently awarded the Fulbright Research Chair in Social Sciences at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa where I will be spending the Fall 2018 term, researching and writing my research project titled “Justice in the Genomic Age”. My next major research project explores the idea of the “playful” society as a realistic utopia and draws on empirical insights from evolutionary biology and positive psychology. My 2016 book, titled Biologically Modified Justice, integrated insights from evolutionary biology and geroscience with ethics and political philosophy, and my latest book, Genetic Ethics: An Introductionwill be published in September 2018 (Polity Books).

Most Recent Project

Genetic Ethics: An Introduction

Book cover: Genetic Ethics--An Introduction, by Queen's researcher Dr. Colin Farrelly. Cover photo depicts a composite profile made from torn photos of 3 women In this book, I contemplate the various ethical and social quandaries raised by the Genetic Revolution. Recent biomedical advances such as genetic screening, gene therapy, and genome editing might be used to promote equality of opportunity, reproductive freedom, healthy aging, and the prevention and treatment of disease. However, these technologies also raise a host of ethical questions: Is the idea of ‘genetically engineering’ humans a morally objectionable form of eugenics? Should parents undergoing IVF be permitted to screen embryos for the sex of their offspring? Would it be ethical to alter the rate at which humans age, greatly increasing longevity at a time when the human population is already at potentially unsustainable levels?

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Other Projects

  • Biologically Modified Justice

    Book cover: Biologically Modified Justice, by Queen's researcher Dr. Colin Farrelly. Cover illustration references a modern Vitruvian Man (DaVinci) and a DNA strandTheories of distributive justice tend to focus on the issue of what constitutes a fair division of 'external' goods and opportunities; things like wealth and income, opportunities for education, and basic liberties and rights. Rapid advances in biomedical sciences, however, have ushered in a new era, one where the 'genetic lottery of life' can be directly influenced by humans in ways that would have been considered science fiction only a few decades ago. How should theories of justice be modified to take seriously the prospect of new biotechnologies, especially given the health challenges posed by global aging? I address a host of topics, ranging from gene therapy and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, to an 'anti-aging' intervention and the creation and evolution of patriarchy.

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