Philosophy in Canada

Professor Bryson Brown explores how Canada’s colonial heritage and modern-day immigrants have influenced the nation’s study of philosophy, as well as the range of courses on offer.

Canadian philosophical researchers are active in every field and form of philosophical inquiry. Subjects including logic, philosophy of science, history of philosophy, ethics, phenomenology, continental philosophy, Asian philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology are pursued by professional philosophers based in universities large and small across the country. Nearly all Canada’s universities are publicly-funded in a fairly equitable way; consequently, faculty at small- and medium-sized institutions have the opportunity to pursue research, just as their colleagues at larger (and more famous) schools do.

Philosophy in Canada

“Owing to Canada’s colonial history, philosophy in Canada has been strongly influenced by philosophers and philosophical traditions from the United Kingdom, France and from Europe more generally”

Bachelor’s degrees in philosophy are offered by almost every university in Canada. Master’s degrees, some course-based and some combining coursework with MA theses, are offered at most medium to large universities and a fair number of smaller ones. Finally, doctoral degrees, typically involving some combination of coursework, comprehensive exams and a dissertation, are offered by a variety of medium to large institutions across the country.

Research funding is provided by the universities and by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which holds annual competitions for research proposals. Funding for graduate students is similarly provided by individual universities and the SSHRC; normally a student admitted to graduate studies will receive some support in the form of scholarships and additional support as pay for work as a teaching or research assistant.

Owing to Canada’s colonial history, philosophy in Canada has been strongly influenced by philosophers and philosophical traditions from the United Kingdom, France and from Europe more generally. Further, Canada’s close geographical and trading relations with the United States have contributed substantially to Canadian philosophy; many faculty members across Canada received their degrees from universities in the UK, France or the United States. More recently, immigrants from many countries and cultures around the world have come to Canada, and Canadian philosophy today pursues inquiries originating in a wide range of influences and traditions.

Students interested in studying philosophy in Canada can find out quite a lot about philosophy programmes at Canadian universities by looking them up on the web. Departmental sites generally list faculty members along with their interests and areas of specialisation; sites for individual faculty members often include details and even samples of their research and information about their teaching. University websites include calendars showing courses and programmes that are available, along with the academic requirements and procedures for applicants. Foreign students should be aware that tuition fees for foreign students are higher than those for Canadians; in particular, tuition fees are very low in Quebec for students from Quebec, but higher for students from elsewhere in Canada as well as for foreign students. Studies in philosophy provide a good background for work in many areas - the problem-solving, critical thinking and writing skills that philosophy students acquire prepare them for many different kinds of intellectual challenge. Graduates have gone on to careers in business, government, law and many other areas, as well as, of course, in academia.

Written by Professor Bryson Brown (2010)
Canadian Philosophical Association