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Prof. John Duncan

Office Phone: TBA
Office Location: 216 Larkin
Office Hours: Wednesday 10 a.m.–noon, or by appointment

BA and MA philosophy, Carleton University
PhD Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought, York University

John Duncan completed his PhD in the interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought at York University in 1998, immediately after which he joined the faculty at the University of King’s College in Halifax. In 2002 he founded the international bilingual society for the study of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture (EPTC) and served as its president until May 2009. During a 2004–05 sabbatical leave he was Ashley Fellow at Trinity College in the University of Toronto, a year in which he co-founded PhaenEx, EPTC's interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal. He remained a PhaenEx executive editor until the summer of 2012 when he co-edited a 400-page issue in commemoration of EPTC’s 10-year anniversary (PhaenEx 7.1., spring/summer, 2012). In the summer of 2005 he was appointed assistant professor and director of the Ethics, Society, and Law (ES&L) program at Trinity, as well as an instructor in the Margaret MacMillan Trinity One Program in public policy, ethics, international relations, and health science, for which he served as director from July 2012 to August 2014. From 2006 to 2011 he was an executive member of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Ethics, for which he organized the October 2011 Public Issues Forum: On the very idea of a good war: Afghanistan 10 years in. Beginning at Trinity in 2007 and continuing in partnership with Victoria College in the University of Toronto (where he is an associate) from 2010, he co-founded the Humanities for Humanity outreach program and remains its academic director. Starting from the 2011–12 year he has led Victoria College’s Culture, Conflict, and the Media seminar, and served as the academic director for its Theatre for Thought outreach program, both of which are part of Victoria’s Ideas for the World program. In January 2014 he became the first holder of the appointment of  faculty advisor for the Ideas for the World program at Victoria. From June 2013 to June 2015 he has served as vice president of the Canadian Peace Research Association. He has co-edited a volume on the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau as well as issues of PhaenEx, written chapters, articles,reviews and opinion pieces on the history of philosophy, continental philosophy, and politics, and given many talks on the same subjects. His feature article on close air support and civilian casualties in Afghanistan,“Death from Above,” first published in This Magazine, March/April, 2010, was re-published in Tightrope Books’ The Best Canadian Essays: 2011. He published a chapter in October 2013 on the virtue of deep dissent, and is currently working on a book on the war in Afghanistan. 


On the Afghanistan intervention

 John Duncan. Interview: Graeme Smith (about the Afghanistan intervention) published both in Trinity Alumni Magazine Spring 2014, pp 8–10, and on the Trinity College website,Spring 2014.

 ---. “Afghanistan will be a source of global instability after 2014,” NEZ ÀNEZ debate published in the Fall 2013 issue of Global Brief: World Affairs in the 21st Century. The complete debate published in the on-line edition:

 ---. “Death from above,” The Best Canadian Essays: 2011 (

 ---, Graeme Smith and Amir Attaran,“Our Afghan Decade: A round table discussion on the past, present, and future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan,” The Sept/Oct 2011 issue of This Magazine marking the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.

 ---. “Canada’s Afghanistan intervention is a disastrous failure.” The CCPA Monitor.Volume 17 Number 4, September 2010, pages 18–19.

 ---. “The Insurgents will be back.” Op-ed for The Globe and Mail, May 5, 2010(857 words), page A17.

 ---. “Three Short Months Seven Long Years Ago.” Op-ed for The Ottawa Citizen,December 22, 2008 (901 words). Also carried by The Edmonton Journal (2008 12 23), The Montreal Gazette (2008 12 24), The Vancouver Province (2008 12 24), The Victoria Times Colonist (2008 12 27) that I know of.

On various political topics

 ---. Interview: Michael Ignatieff (about his run for the Office of Prime Minister)published both in Trinity Alumni Magazine Spring 2014, pp 8–10, and on the Trinity College website, Spring 2014.

 ---. Interview: Robyn Doolittle (about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford), published on the Trinity College website, Spring 2014.

 ---. “Returning to the Responsibility to Protect,” OpenCanada, Canadian International Council, April 23, 2014,  

 ---, Russell Hoy, "Canadian Mining Companies' Bad Record Abroad," The CCPA Monitor, Vol. 20 No. 3, July /August 2013, p. 39.

 ---."Canada's Flimsy Kyoto Excuse: Exporting tar sands oil to U.S. and China is hypocritical," in The CCPA Monitor, Volume 18, No 9, March 2012, page 23.

 On various topics in continental philosophy

---. "Descent to the Things Themselves: The Virtue of Dissent." Invited Chapter. Editors: Kevin Hermberg and Paul Gyllenhammer put together the volume Phenomenology and Virtue Ethics for  Bloomsbury Publishing, Fall 2013.

 ---.“Michel Foucault,” 3,500 word article for the Encyclopedia Of Media And Communication. Edited by Marcel Danesi. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division. May, 2013.

 ---. “On Heidegger and Happiness.” PhaenEx ( A book encounter (an extended review of,and engagement with, a new book), in this case: Matthew King. Heidegger and Happiness: Dwelling on Fitting and Being (Continuum: New York, 2009).

 ---. “Sartre’s Pure Critical Theory,” pages 130-175, Rethinking 1968—a special topics issue, PhaenEx Vol 4, No 2.December 2009.

 ---. “Culture, Tragedy and Pessimism in Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy,”pages 47–70, The Inaugural Special Topics Issue: On Resurfacing Tragedy. PhaenEx,Vol. 1, No. 2 (2006) 1-122.

 ---. “Sartre and Realism-all-the-Way-Down,” pages 91–113, in Adrian van den Hoven and Andrew Leak, editors. Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration (Berghahn Books,2005).

            --All contents also published in Sartre Studies International, Vol. 11, No. ½ (2005). 

--This paper is discussed at length in Steven Hendley’s“Realism and Contingency: Elaborating a Viable Sartrean Response to Rorty’s Anti-Realism,” in New Perspectives on Sartre, edited by Adrian Mirvish and Adrian van den Hoven (Cambridge Scholars Publishing: September, 2010), pages 161–177.

 On various topics in the humanities 

 ---.“Frankenstein’s Message: Life Without Love is Monstrous,” First Light, June 2011.

 ---. “Rorty, Richard,” pages 1488–1489. In George Thomas Kurian, editor in chief, and James E. Alt, Simone Chambers, Geoffrey Garrett, Margaret Levi, Paula D. McClain, associate editors. The Encyclopedia of Political Science in five volumes. (CQ Press: Washington, D.C., 2011). Information at:

 ---. “Sophists,” pages 1574–1575. In George Thomas Kurian, editor in chief, and James E. Alt, Simone Chambers, Geoffrey Garrett, Margaret Levi, Paula D. McClain, associate editors. The Encyclopedia of Political Science in five volumes. (CQ Press: Washington, D.C., 2011). Information at:

 ---, Mark Blackell, and Simon Kow, editors. Rousseau and Desire (University of Toronto Press: Toronto, December 2009). 206 pages.

---. “Perfectibility, Chance, and the Mechanism of Desire Multiplication in Rousseau’s Discourse on Inequality,” pages 17–45, in Rousseau and Desire.

 ---.“Toward an Ethical Critique of Academic Ethics—one small community-based example.” Mindful: Undergraduate Journal of Ethics and Political Theory, Issue 3, Autumn 2008, 14–17. Available on line at:

 ---. Review of Sankar Muthu’s Enlightenment Against Empire (Princeton University Press, 2003),for The Dalhousie Review, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Spring, 2005) 137–138.