Paul Fairfield

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

His writings fall generally within the traditions of philosophical hermeneutics, phenomenology, and pragmatism, and major influences on his 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: An Essay on Historical Change.

Fairfield was born in 1966 in Brockville, Ontario and attended J. L. Jordan and St. Mary Catholic schools and Brockville Collegiate Institute. He received a B.A. from McMaster University in 1989 and an M.A. from the University of Waterloo in 1991. In 1995 he completed a doctorate in philosophy at McMaster, following which he did postdoctoral work at Waterloo and held teaching positions at McMaster, Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier universities. He has taught at Queen's University since 2002. Email:



Hermeneutics and Phenomenology: Figures and Themes. Anthology co-edited with Saulius Geniusas. Springer, forthcoming in 2017.

Relational Hermeneutics: Essays in Comparative Philosophy. Anthology co-edited with Saulius Geniusas. Springer, forthcoming in 2017.

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 (New York: Springer, 2017).

"Social Media and Communicative Unlearning." In Social Media and Your Brain, ed. Carlos Prado (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2016).

"Nietzsche and Self-Education." In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, ed. Michael A. Peters (New York: Springer, 2016).

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

"Make It Scientific: Education as a Social Science." In Hermeneutic Approaches to Social Science, ed. Babette Babich (New York: Springer, 2016).

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

"Education, Conversation, and Listening." In Kwartalnik Pedagogiczny (2016).

"Educational Technology in the Humanities." In Kwartalnik Pedagogiczny (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).

"Gary Madison and Communicative Rationality." In Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy (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.


The focus of Professor Fairfield's teaching at Queen’s is philosophy in the continental European traditions.

He teaches 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 2016-17 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’ Man in the Modern Age, and parts of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. 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, he teaches an annual seminar for fourth-year philosophy majors and graduate students on hermeneutics. The topic for 2016 (fall semester) is Jeff Mitscherling's Aesthetic Genesis (2009) as well as Essays on Aesthetic Genesis (2016), edited by Charlene Elsby and Aaron Massecar.

Website by Gwyneth Fairfield