Paul Fairfield

Paul Fairfield is Professor of Philosophy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (Canada), the author of nine sole-authored books, and editor or co-editor of five anthologies.

My writings fall generally within the traditions of philosophical hermeneutics, phenomenology, and pragmatism, and major influences on my work to date include Friedrich Nietzsche, John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Current projects include a book on the philosophy of history entitled Transitions: Philosophical Reflections on Historical Change and a book co-authored with Jeff Mitscherling on artistic creation.

I was born in 1966 in Brockville, Ontario and attended J. L. Jordan and St. Mary elementary schools and Brockville Collegiate Institute. I received a B.A. from McMaster University in 1989 and an M.A. from the University of Waterloo in 1991. In 1995 I completed a doctorate in philosophy at McMaster, following which I did postdoctoral work at Waterloo and held teaching positions at McMaster, Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier universities. The longer story can be found here.

I have taught at Queen's University since 2002, and hold a secondary affiliation with the Faculty of Education at the University of Warsaw. Whatever free time I have is spent with my wife, Gwyneth, and our seven-year-old daughter, Evangeline, or at the gym.


Recent Speaking Engagements

“On Indoctrination.” University of Warsaw, November, 2017.
“Hermeneutical Pragmatism.” North American Society for Philosophical Hermeneutics, Goucher College, September 2017.
“Can Creative Thinking Be Taught?” Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, Oxford University, March 2017; and Queen’s University, March 2017.


Hermeneutics and Phenomenology: Figures and Themes. Anthology co-edited with Saulius Geniusas. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Relational Hermeneutics: Essays in Comparative Philosophy. Anthology co-edited with Saulius Geniusas. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Teachability and Learnability: Can Thinking Be Taught? Routledge, 2016.
1. Introduction. 2. Teachability, Learnability, and Agency. 3. What Is Education? 4. The Promise and Limits of Educational Technology. 5. Thinking as Inquiry. 6. From Reflective to Meditative and Critical Thinking. 7. The Educated Mind. 8. Self-Education. 9. Conclusion.

Education and Conversation: Exploring Oakeshott's Legacy. Anthology co-edited with David Bakhurst. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Death: A Philosophical Inquiry. Routledge, 2014.
Introduction: Death and Existence. 1. The Denial of Death. 2. Death Rituals. 3. Voluntary Death. 4. Being-Toward-Death. 5. Openness to Mystery. 6. On Speculation and Hope.

Philosophical Hermeneutics Reinterpreted: Dialogues with Existentialism, Pragmatism, Critical Theory, and Postmodernism. Bloomsbury, 2011.
Introduction: Hermeneutical Engagements. 1. Perspectivism: Friedrich Nietzsche. 2. Reason as Boundless Communication: Karl Jaspers. 3. The Thou and the Mass: Gabriel Marcel. 4. Truth After Correspondence: William James. 5. The Theory of Inquiry: John Dewey. 6. Practice, Theory, and Anti-Theory: Richard Rorty. 7. Interpretation and Criticism: Max Horkheimer. 8. Deliberative Politics: Jurgen Habermas. 9. Discourse Ethics: Karl-Otto Apel. 10. Genealogy and Suspicious Interpretation: Michel Foucault. 11. Radical Hermeneutics: John Caputo. 12. Unprincipled Judgments: Jean-Francois Lyotard.

Education, Dialogue, and Hermeneutics. Anthology. Continuum, 2010.

John Dewey and Continental Philosophy. Anthology. Southern Illinois University Press, 2010.

Education After Dewey. Continuum, 2009.
Introduction: An Enigmatic Transition. 1. Beyond Progressivism and Conservatism. 2. Dewey's Copernican Revolution. 3. What Is Called Thinking? 4. Teaching Philosophy: The Scholastic and the Thinker. 5. Teaching Religion: Spiritual Training or Indoctrination? 6. Teaching Ethics: From Moralism to Experimentalism. 7. Teaching Politics: Training for Democratic Citizenship. 8. Teaching History: The Past and the Present. 9. Teaching Literature: Life and Narrative.

Why Democracy? State University of New York Press, 2008.
Introduction: Posing the Question. 1. "The Fountainhead of Justice"? 2. Democracy: Communitarian, Participatory, or Radical? 3. Deliberative Democracy. 4. A Modest Phenomenology of Democratic Speech. 5. Why Democracy? 6. Between the Market and the Forum. 7. Conclusion and Prognosis.
Public/Private. Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.
1. Negotiating a Distinction. 2. Privacy in an Age of Information. 3. Political Philosophy in the Bedroom. 4. Property and the Private Sphere. 5. Revelation.

The Ways of Power: Hermeneutics, Ethics, and Social Criticism. Duquesne University Press, 2002.
Introduction: The Ways of Power and the Question of Critique. 1. The Will to Power and the Politics of Ressentiment. 2. Power/Knowledge. 3. The Critique of Ideology. 4. The Practice of Criticism. 5. Hermeneutical Ethical Theory. 6. Conclusion.

Moral Selfhood in the Liberal Tradition: The Politics of Individuality. University of Toronto Press, 2000.
Introduction. 1. The Classical Liberals. 2. Utilitarian and New Liberals. 3. Neoclassical Liberals and Communitarian Critics. 4. Changing the Subject: Refashioning the Liberal Self. 5. Rational Agency. 6. The Political Conditions of Agency. 7. Conclusion.

Theorizing Praxis: Studies in Hermeneutical Pragmatism. Peter Lang, 2000.
1. Hermeneutical Pragmatism. 2. Truth Without Methodologism. 3. The Educative Process. 4. Ethics and its "Application." 5. Structures of Intersubjectivity.

Is There a Canadian Philosophy? Reflections on the Canadian Identity. Co-authored with G. B. Madison and I. Harris. University of Ottawa Press, 2000.


"Hermeneutical Pragmatism." In Relational Hermeneutics: Essays in Comparative Philosophy, eds. Paul Fairfield and Saulius Geniusas (London: Bloomsbury, 2018).

"Lords of Mendacity." In America's Post-Truth Phenomenon: When Feelings and Opinions Trump Facts and Evidence, ed. C. G. Prado (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2018)

"Educational Technology in the Humanities." In Kultura Pedagogiczny (Pedagogical Culture) (forthcoming).

"Nietzsche and Self-Education." In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, ed. Michael A. Peters (New York: Springer, 2017).

"Make It Scientific: Education as a Social Science." In Hermeneutic Philosophies of Social Science, ed. Babette Babich (Berlin: de Guyter, 2017).

"Social Media and Communicative Unlearning: Learning to Forget in Communicating." In Social Media and Your Brain: Web-Based Communication Is Changing How We Think and Express Ourselves, ed. C. G. Prado (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2016).

"Artistic Creation: On Mitscherling and Dylan." In Essays on Aesthetic Genesis, eds. Charlene Elsby and Aaron Massecar (Lanham: University Press of America, 2016).

"A Phenomenology of Listening." In Education and Conversation: Exploring Oakeshott's Legacy, eds. David Bakhurst and Paul Fairfield (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).

"Rationality, Knowledge, and Relativism." In The Blackwell Companion to Hermeneutics, eds. Chris Lawn and Niall Keane (London: Blackwell, 2016).

 "Hermeneutics and Education." In The Blackwell Companion to Hermeneutics, eds. Chris Lawn and Niall Keane (London: Blackwell, 2016).

"Education, Conversation, and Listening." In Kultura Pedagogiczny (Pedagogical Culture). Vol. 1, No. 2. 2015.

"Gary Madison and Communicative Rationality." In Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy. Vol. 19, No. 2. Fall 2015.

"Hermeneutical Themes in Education." In Routledge Companion to Hermeneutics, ed. Jeff Malpas (London: Routledge, 2014).

"The Hermeneutics of Suspicion and Recovery and the Difference it Does Not Make: Gadamer and Foucault." In Gadamer's Hermeneutics and the Art of Conversation. Ed. Andrzej Wiercinski (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011).

"Dialogical Education?" In Gadamer's Hermeneutics and the Art of Conversation. Ed. Andrzej Wiercinski (Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2011).

"Dialogue in the Classroom" and "Introduction." In Education, Dialogue, and Hermeneutics. Ed. Paul Fairfield (London: Continuum, 2010).

"Dewey, Nietzsche, and the Self-Image of Philosophy" and "Introduction: Overdue Conversations." In John Dewey and Continental Philosophy. Ed. Paul Fairfield (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2010).

"On Ethical Expertise." Journal of the Interdisciplinary Crossroads. Vol. 3, No. 3. December 2006.

"A Modest Phenomenology of Democratic Speech." The European Legacy. Vol. 10, No. 4. 2005.

"La teorizzazione immanente alla pratica, o la pratica stessa." ("Practice-Immanent Theorizing, or To the Practices Themselves") Discipline Filosofiche. Vol. 14, No. 1. 2004.

"Gadamer, Ricoeur, and Practical Judgment." In Between Suspicion and Sympathy: Paul Ricoeur's Unstable Equilibrium. Ed. Andrzej Wiercinski (Toronto: The Hermeneutic Press, 2003).

"Hermeneutical Liberalism." Philosophy Today. Vol. 46, No. 4. Fall 2002.

"Hermeneutical Ethical Theory." In The Ethics of Postmodernity: Current Trends in Continental Thought. Eds. Gary B. Madison and Marty Fairbairn (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1999).
"Liberalism and Moral Selfhood." Philosophy Today. Vol. 40, No. 3. Fall 1996.

"Overcoming the Theory/Practice Opposition in Business Ethics." Business and Professional Ethics Journal. Vol. 14, No. 4. Winter 1995.

"Habermas, Lyotard, and Political Discourse." Reason Papers: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Normative Studies. Vol. 19. Fall 1994.

"Habermas, Kohlberg, and the Myth of Expertise." Eidos. Vol. XI, No.s 1 & 2. June/December 1993.

"Truth Without Methodologism: Gadamer and James." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. XVII, No. 3. Summer 1993.

Teaching and Supervision

The focus of my teaching at Queen’s is philosophy in the continental European tradition.

I teach the following undergraduate courses annually: Continental Philosophy 1800–1900 (Philosophy 273); Continental Philosophy 1900–1960 (Philosophy 373); and Continental Philosophy 1960–The Present (Philosophy 374). Each lecture course examines three philosophers, to each of whom is devoted four weeks of class time. Authors and texts vary from year to year, but for 2017-18 they are as follows. Philosophy 273 analyzes Søren Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and Wilhelm Dilthey’s Introduction to the Human Sciences. Philosophy 373 takes up a few essays from Martin Heidegger’s Basic Writings, Karl Jaspers’s Man in the Modern Age, and Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus. Philosophy 374 examines Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Reason in the Age of Science, Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality volume 1: An Introduction, and Calvin Schrag’s Reflections on the Religious, the Ethical, and the Political.

In addition, I teach an annual seminar on hermeneutics for graduate students and fourth-year philosophy majors. The topic for 2018 (winter semester) is aesthetics and artistic creation, and we shall be reading Hans-Georg Gadamer's The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, among other shorter pieces.

My recent supervisions at the graduate level have included theses on Heidegger, Camus, Merleau-Ponty, Dewey, and Nietzsche. I am comfortable supervising at the M.A. and Ph.D. levels on most areas of continental philosophy, or serving on committees as second or third reader. I don't mind stretching a bit to accommodate students' research interests. I also supervise reading courses every year at the undergraduate or graduate level on a wide variety of subject areas. Students wishing to pursue an M.A. or Ph.D. in Canada in some area of continental thought continue to have too few options, but the Department of Philosophy at Queen's is (now) a good home for many seeking to do so. In addition to myself, there are a few faculty members at Queen's who have research interests in this general field.  

In my teaching, I place a fair amount of importance on the art of writing, whether one is a graduate student or undergraduate, and regardless of one's field of study. Please find here some information on writing essays.

Art Work: "Dancing with the Pen" by Derik Hawley

Website by Gwyneth Fairfield