November 2019

Congratulations to Dr. Ty Branch, who graduated at Fall convocation! Here’s a photo of Ty with Dr. Doreen Fraser at the reception:

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Dr. Doreen Fraser (left) with newly-minted Ph.D., Dr. Ty Branch, at the reception following Fall convocation.

Ty’s doctoral dissertation was about the role of values in science communication. A detailed interview with Dr. Branch can be found at the upcoming Fall issue of our Rational Enquirer e-magazine.


Our Chair Dr. Patricia Marino reports that: “In early November, I had the great pleasure of presenting a paper on the use of mathematics in economics at the 20th Midwest Philosophy of Mathematics Workshop at The University of Notre Dame. Philosophy of math was one of the first areas I worked in, and for a long time I’ve been working on other topics, especially in value-theory. In economics, I get to bring these fields together, and it was so fun spending some time talking about topics like the nature of mathematical explanation. My paper — “On the Use of Mathematics in Economics: Formalism, Fit, and Physics” — examined the relationship between formalism as a philosophy of mathematics and formalism as a way of axiomatizing math and science. Because of the effect of flying on climate change, I chose to travel the 400 miles to South Bend by train and bus; if you want to read about that experience, I wrote about it here. Finally, here is a picture of me with an old friend from graduate school, Sean Duggan, who works on Frege”:

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Sean Duggan (left) with Dr. Patricia Marino, at the University of Notre Dame 

“I’ve also”, she continues, “recently presented a paper on “Moral Pluralism, Bioethics, and the Complexities of Informed Consent” — at the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy conference [] and at a bioethics workshop at the Romanell Center at the University at Buffalo. Here’s a picture of the conference speakers in Buffalo”:

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Dr. Patricia Marino (fourth from left) at the University of Buffalo’s bioethics conference

“On Friday December 6th,”, Patricia adds, “I’ll be participating in an author-meets-critics session at Ryerson University on Brian Weatherson’s new book on normative externalism. It’s just down the road, so if you want to attend, just let me know!”


Dr. Mathieu Doucet’s latest research project has been featured and promoted by the University. Called “Ethical by Design,” it involves examining how biotechnology and bioengineering impact our lives; Matt’s input focuses on the moral and political dimensions of such impact.


Dr. Mathieu Doucet, co-investigator on Ethical by Design

Matt’s expertise in applied ethics complements the expertise of other Waterloo faculty in engineering- and computer design, for an exciting new interdisciplinary investigation into cutting-edge technological change. Check out the full story here:


Dr. Shannon Dea reports that: “In October, I gave a talk entitled “On Silence” at the Freedom of Expression in Canada workshop held at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). In the talk, I argued that we should avoid conflating self-censorship (which is bad) with virtuous- and morally neutral refrainment from speech.

“Also in October,”, she notes, “I published my latest column in my monthly University Affairs series, Dispatches on Academic Freedom. The October column, “Middle Eastern studies, Greta Thunberg and Institutional Autonomy” [] draws on two recent cases from the U.S. to show just how critical institutional autonomy is for academic freedom.

“As well,” she adds, “I have just been appointed as Cult 5 Fellowship expert panellist on Philosophy and Ethics for the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen (FWO) for the period 2020-2023. The panel comprises twelve international experts who meet in Brussels twice a year to adjudicate Belgian national grant applications.”


Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Shannon Dea will serve on the FWO Committee


In early November, Ian MacDonald successfully defended his PhD thesis, Communal Inferentialism: Peirce’s Critique of Epistemic Individualism. Examiners were Drs Shannon Dea (supervisor), Gerry Callaghan, and Dave DeVidi (internal examiners), Andrew McMurry from English (internal-external examiner), and Paul Forster from the University of Ottawa (external examiner). The thesis includes the material for which Ian won this year’s Charles S. Peirce essay prize, announced last blog. Ian will present his prize-winning paper in January at the annual meeting of the Charles S. Peirce Society: [].


In early October, the department celebrated the launch of the Gender and Social Justice (GSJ) program (formerly Women’s Studies) with afternoon cake and refreshments. The launch of the program this term is the culmination of work that began in 2014, when the Women’s Studies Board and Shannon, then-Women’s Studies Director, started the process of moving the program into the philosophy department, revamping the curriculum for the program, and renaming it accordingly. The department will hold a larger celebration of the activation of the GSJ program on April 2, in 2020, with a showcase of student work and a public talk by Toronto Star equity and race reporter (and Atkinson Fellow) Shree Paradkar. Stay tuned for more details on that as the date approaches.


Finally, from October 21 to 25, the department played host to Professor Kyle Powys Whyte, who was this year’s Brian Rudrick Visiting Scholar.



Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte of Michigan State University

Dr. Whyte is Professor & Timnick Chair in the departments of Philosophy and Community Sustainability at Michigan State University. During his visit, Professor Whyte gave a colloquium talk, “Is Indigenous Research Possible within the Confines of Anglophone Philosophy Departments?”, led an informal workshop on “Reconciliation,” and gave a public talk (co-hosted by Philosophy and Shatitsirótha, the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre): “Not Done Critiquing Wilderness Areas, National Parks & Public Lands.”

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Original art by UW Indigenous student Sydney Hannusch, for use with promotion of Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte’s visit as the Rudrick Scholar.


Professor Whyte also generously met with students, including the department’s Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) chapter, visited the Six Nations reserve, and spent time with Indigenous students, staff, and elders at Shatitsirótha.


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Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte lecturing

Professor Whyte was the third Brian Rudrick Visiting Scholar the department has hosted. That visiting scholar program is supported by a generous bequest from long-time friend of the department, Dr. Brian Rudrick, who died suddenly in 2013.


Brian F. Rudrick (2)




October 2019 Update

Ph.D. Candidate Ian MacDonald has just learned that his paper, “Did Peirce Misrepresent Descartes? Reinvestigating and Defending Peirce’s Case“, is this year’s winner of the Charles Sanders Peirce Essay Prize. The prize is awarded each year by the Charles S. Peirce Society [] in an international competition among graduate students and junior faculty. Ian wins $1000. He will present his talk at this year’s annual general meeting of the Peirce Society, to be held in conjunction with the Eastern Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association (APA) in Philadelphia.


Influential American pragmatist philosophy Charles Sanders Pierce, who inspired Ian MacDonald’s prize essay 

Ian’s paper will also be published in the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society. He is the fourth scholar at a Canadian institution to win the prize within the last twenty years. (And—as Ian’s doctoral supervisor, Shannon Dea, reports—”we think, but are not sure, that this is the first instance of a Peirce prize winner being the doctoral supervisee of a previous Peirce prize winner.”)

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Famed French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes: a target of Pierce’s critique

Katy Fulfer informs us that: “My latest journal article, with Dr. Rita A. Gardiner (Western University), has been published in the current issue of Arendt Studies. In “Refugee Resettlement, Rootlessness, and Assimilation,” we draw on Hannah Arendt’s conception of rootlessness to think about how refugees are subject to and experience forces of assimilation upon resettlement. The Waterloo Library subscribes to Arendt Studies, so check it out!”


Dr. Katy Fulfer, basking in the sun in the gardens at Bard College (in the Catskills/Hudson Valley area of New York State, where she is presently spending her research leave from Waterloo)

“The above article,” Katy continues, “is the first publication from my SSHRC Insight Development Grant, “From Rootlessness to Belonging.” The grant project team also has an exciting announcement: In September, we launched a blog series, called “At Home with Arendt.” The series is managed by UWaterloo Applied PhD student Janet Jones. Follow it to read more from the collaborators: Katy, Janet, Rita A. Gardiner, and Harshita Jaiprakash.

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Political theorist Hannah Arendt


Doreen Fraser reports on another essay honour accorded one of the Department’s students by an international body: “Undergraduate Philosophy and Knowledge Integration major Kuil Schoneveld‘s paper, “Social Constructivism and the Emergence of Collaboration“, was Highly Commended in the Philosophy category of the Global Undergraduate Awards. [Link:]  This paper was originally submitted as a term paper in Doreen Fraser’s “Realism and Anti-Realism” seminar. Congratulations, Kuil!”


And, thanks to Department colloquium organizer Shannon Dea, we’ve had a very active and stimulating start to our colloquium series this Fall, as befits the launch of our new program in Gender and Social Justice (GSJ). Each speaker thus far has given a very well-received talk, packed with attendance, provoking searching questions and engaged discussion. Below are our recent speakers, along with photos, titles, links to further information, and the self-written abstracts from their lively talks.


Dr. Quayshawn Spencer, Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania [] spoke to us on September 13th about: “One More Radical Solution to the Race Problem.”

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Dr. Quayshawn Spencer of the University of Pennsylvania spoke to us recently about the metaphysics of race

 Abstract: “One debate that metaphysicians of race have been consumed with since the 1990s is what we can call the US race debate, which is the debate about what the nature and reality of race is according to the dominant ways that ‘race’ and race terms are used to classify people in contemporary American English. In 2014, I contributed a defense of biological racial realism in the US race debate that utilized new results about human genetic clustering from population genetics. In this paper, I will show that all US race theories have been wrong, including my own. This is because, as I will argue, the correct US race theory has a radically pluralist form. This is an instance of a meta-metaphysical position that I call radical racial pluralism. After defending radical racial pluralism in the US race debate, I explore valuable implications of the view for metaphysicians of race.”


Dr. Liam Shields, Lecturer in Political Theory at the University of Manchester [] spoke to us on September 27th about: “The Distribution of Parental Rights and Third Party Interests.

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Dr. Liam Sheilds, of the University of Manchester, spoke to us about children’s rights

Abstract: “If we set aside non-instrumental concerns with biological connection, there are two main positions in the literature on the distribution of parental rights. There are those who believe that the child’s interests are all that matters. These so-called “child-centered theories” maintain that, due to the child’s vulnerability, we should not take into account the interests others might have in who holds rights over them. The best-known example of such a view is known as “the best custodian condition” and it states that parental rights should be held by those individuals who are willing to parent and who will do no worse a job than anyone else in terms of the child’s expected well-being. There are also those who believe that interests of parents matter in addition to the best interests of the child. These so-called “dual-interest views,” maintain that both the interest of the child, in the quality of their upbringing and life as a whole, and the interests of parents in establishing and maintaining a valuable relationship with their child should be considered when determining, among other things, child custody. In this paper I wish to motivate and sketch an even more inclusive position than this. My position takes into account the interest of third parties, including prospective parents, relatives, and disinterested third parties who I argue have an interest that should be accounted for in a complete and sound account of the distribution of parental rights. I start by summarizing the extant positions in detail and then go on to argue by analogy for inclusion of the interests of prospective parents and relatives. I then finally suggest that others, such as those who have no desire to parent or be involve in caring relationships with children, can still be said to have weighty interests, such as their interest in the child becoming a just citizen. I then sketch the implications of these additional interests for certain stylized cases.”


And last Friday, October 4th, Dr. Lisa Guenther, Queen’s University National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies [] spoke to us about “No Prisons on Stolen Land: Prison Abolition and Decolonization as Interconnected Struggles.”


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Dr. Lisa Guenther, Queen’s University National Scholar, spoke to us about prison reform, decolonization, and Indigenous resistance 

Abstract: “In her essay, “Criminal Empire,” Ojibwe scholar Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark argues that the criminalization of Indigenous resistance to colonization “averts attention” from the criminality of settler states that fail or refuse to honour their own legal agreements with Indigenous peoples. This essay reflects on the implications of Stark’s analysis for a critical phenomenology of carceral-colonial space. From this perspective, the prison appears not as a correctional institution for individual lawbreakers but rather as a spatial strategy for the imposition and enforcement of a colonial legal order that naturalizes and normalizes a colonial property regime. The challenge of decolonization is not only to return stolen land to Indigenous peoples but also to dismantle the structures of propertied personhood and dispossession that the colonial property regime (re)produces.”


Welcome Back! Fall 2019

Welcome Back Everyone!

And Special Welcome to Professor Jennifer Saul!

The Department’s biggest news this Fall 2019 term is the welcoming of a brand new, very distinguished colleague, faculty member, author, and mentor: Professor Jenny Saul. Jenny works in philosophy of language, feminism, philosophy of race, and philosophy of psychology; she will be joining us as the Waterloo Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language and will be teaching courses in the Philosophy Department and the new Gender and Social Justice Program, which has just launched this term.


Dr. Jennifer Saul (left), Waterloo’s new Chair in Social and Political Philosophy of Language, with Dr. Shannon Dea (right), when Dr. Saul visited Waterloo as The Rudrick Scholar

Professor Saul is the author of several books and many articles, including her most recent book Lying, Misleading and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics(Oxford University Press 2012):


Dr. Saul has supervised PhD students working on names, indexicals, implicature, gender, sexual objectification, vagueness, indexicals, reference, justice, cosmopolitanism and feminism, epistemic/communicative injustice, semantic minimalism, lying, feminist philosophy of science, the family, philosophy of sex, and autonomy. She is the President of the Mind Association for 2019-2020, and was the recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Woman Philosopher Award in Washington, DC. You can read more about Jenny at her personal website:

When asked about the big move from Sheffield in the UK to Canada, Dr. Saul said: “The move has been both chaotic and lovely.  The chaos is due to unfortunate complications which have meant that since late July my family and I have had no home and just a couple suitcases’ worth of possessions.  The loveliness is due to the really wonderful people in Waterloo who are, successively, taking us in.  We are amazed by the kindness and generosity of folks here. So far, we are having a great time in Canada — we went to an astounding Syrian Flamenco concert and we love (perhaps a bit too much!) the butter tarts. And we are realizing that we have a lot to learn about barbecuing after our many years on the soggy British isles.”

About some of her professional plans during her first year here in the Department, Jenny comments that: “I’ll be teaching Social Justice and Philosophy of Language in the Fall, and Philosophy of Sex in the Winter. I’m also hoping to start a feminist philosophy reading group. One of the big attractions of this department for me is the large number of people working feminist philosophy.” We are honoured to welcome Professor Saul as a faculty member in our Department!


Doreen Fraser also has huge news to report. Doreen won a SSHRC Insight Grant for a new five-year project, “How Mid-Level Frameworks are Used to Develop New Theories in Physics.” She reports: “This project will build on my research on analogies by characterizing related strategies used to transfer theoretical frameworks from one physical theory to another. The ultimate goal is to determine how these heuristics could be fruitfully applied right now in particle physics and quantum gravity. Also, I just returned from Salzburg, Austria where I gave a talk on spontaneous symmetry breaking in quantum statistical mechanics and quantum field theory at the Symmetries and Equivalence workshop put on by the Irvine-London-Munich-Polimi-Salzburg network in philosophy of physics.”


Salzburg, Austria, where recent grant-winner Dr. Doreen Fraser recently gave a talk to a Philosophy of Physics conference


Katy Fulfer’s conference travel took her out West this summer. She began in Vancouver at Congress in early June. At the Canadian Philosophical Association, Katy discussed commodification critiques and their relevance to Canada’s approach to regulating surrogacy.

Katy also organized and moderated a panel discussion on Jackie Feke‘s recent book, Ptolemy’s Philosophy: Mathematics as a Way of Life“This was one of the best book panels I’ve ever attended”, Katy reports. “The conversation ranged from focused discussions about Jackie’s arguments, to considering unexplored implications of the arguments, to asking new questions generated by Jackie’s work. The entire panel engaged in the conversation with each other, and their excitement for Jackie’s work reconstructing Ptolemy’s philosophical system was evident.”

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Panelists for the book Symposium on Ptolemy’ Philosophy (from left to right): Daryn Lehoux (Queens University), Dr. Jackie Feke (University of Waterloo), James L. Zainaldin (Harvard University), Sylvia Berryman (University of British Columbia)

In July, Katy traveled to San Francisco for the North American Society for Social Philosophy annual conference. There, she presented a paper which drew on Hannah Arendt’s conception of the public/private distinction and responsibility to analyze Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. For the fall, Katy will be headed eastward, where she will be a Visiting Scholar at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, continuing her research on Arendt and refugees.


Since the last blog post, Shannon Dea informs us that: “I’ve had three scholarly publications come out, two of them pieces I co-authored with former PhD supervisees of mine”:

  1. Shannon Dea and Matthew Silk, “Sympathetic Knowledge and the Scientific Attitude: Classic Pragmatist Resources for Feminist Social Epistemology” in Miranda Fricker, Peter Graham, David Henderson and Nikolaj Pedersen, Eds. The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology (New York and London: Routledge, 2019).
  2. Shannon Dea and Nathan Haydon, “From the Experimentalist Disposition to the Absolute: Peirce’s Pragmatic Naturalism” in Paul Giladi, Ed. Responses to Naturalism: Critical Perspectives From Idealism and Pragmatism (New York: Routledge, 2019).
  3. Shannon Dea, “Electronics in the Classroom. Time to Hit the Escape Key?” in Chris MacDonald and Lewis Vaughn, The Power of Critical Thinking, 5th Canadian Edition. (Don Mills, Oxford University Press Canada: 2019).

Shannon has also been awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant for her project “Academic Freedom in a Non-Ideal World.”

Also at Congress, at UBC in June, Shannon was one of three University Affairs columnists who took part in a well-attended panel celebrating that magazine’s 60th anniversary. The topic was “Looking Ahead in Higher Ed: What Keeps You Up at Night?” Here is a University Affairs article about that panel: She also organized a CPA panel called “Pragmatism on the Darkest Timeline,” at which I gave the talk, “Viewpoint Diversity and the Final Opinion.” The participants are depicted here, on a Vancouver city bus:


From left to right: Diana Heney (Vanderbilt), Trystan Goetze (Dalhousie), Shannon Dea (Waterloo), Brandon Beasley (Calgary), Andrew Howat (Cal State Fullerton), Lindsey Porter (Bristol), Robert Lane (West Georgia)


Dr. Dea also details a whole bunch of recent media engagement and public scholarship, on a wide range of topics:

  1. “I was one of the discussants in the two-part “What is Love?” symposium hosted by Rob Faucher’s and Paul Fairfield’s Philosophy Crush podcast. The symposium was a kind of mini UW Philosophy reunion. Faucher and Fairfield are UW alumni, as am I and fellow symposium participant Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray.”
  2. “An interview I did with John Semley made its way into his story for The Walrus on campus free speech issues:
  3. “Three new columns in my University Affairs series, Dispatches on Academic Freedom”:
  1. Lori Campbell, Shannon Dea, and Laura McDonald, “The Role of Faculty Associations Following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Academic Matters.
  2. The Uproar Over Taking ‘Man’ Out of ‘Manhole’,” The Conversation. [Reprinted in various Canadian and international publications.

“This last story,” Shannon explains, “actually evolved out of a series of 12 CBC Radio interviews I did about a new municipal ordinance in Berkeley, California to remove gendered language from the municipal code.” Here are CBC links about that story:

and 6. Shannon Dea and Ted McCormick, “Can ‘progress studies’ contribute to knowledge? History suggests caution,” The Conversation (August 2019) [reprinted in various Canadian and international publications.]

Shannon was also the moderator for “Creating Effective Activism and Change” Stratford Community Dialogues series, University of Waterloo Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business:


At the Stratford event, from left to right: Anna Drake, Shana MacDonald, Fiqir Worku, Heather Smyth and Dr. Dea


And Shannon informs us about two new initiatives. First: “I launched a local satellite of Mi’kmaq lawyer, professor, and activist Pam Palmater’s new Reconciliation Book Club. The local meet-up, which launched Wed., Sept. 4 to a packed room, is a partnership between the new Gender and Social Justice program, which is housed in the Philosophy Department, and Wordsworth Books.”reconciliationbookclubflyer copy

And secondly: “Daniel Weinstock (McGill) and I formalized our ongoing collaboration on the philosophy of harm reduction by creating the Canadian Harm Reduction Theory Network, or CHaRT Network. The inaugural network includes philosophy, law, political theory, and public health scholars, and frontline harm reduction workers from Canada and the United Kingdom.”


Finally, since last Spring, the Dept has news about 3 books: one on sex and love by our Chair, Patricia Marino; another on business ethics edited by Greg Andres; and one on war by Brian Orend.

Patricia’s book, published by Routledge in late April, is Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Opinionated Introduction.



Patricia’s book explores vital issues surrounding sex and love in today’s world, among them consent, objectification, non-monogamy, racial stereotyping, and the need to reconcile contemporary expectations about gender equality with our beliefs about how love works. There are further, fascinating chapters about sex and love as viewed through the prisms of economics, medicine, disability, and the law. Patricia in general argues that we cannot fully understand these issues by focusing only on individual desires and choices. Instead, we need to examine the social contexts within which choices are made and acquire their meanings. That perspective, she argues, is especially needed today, when the values of individualism, self-expression, and self-interest permeate our lives. She asks, pointedly, how we can fit such values with the generosity, caring, and selflessness we expect in love and sex.

We’ll have more on Patricia’s book in this Fall’s issue of The Rational Enquirer, our online e-magazine for department alums. In the meantime, see Routledge’s website for the book: And watch this podcast interview with her about it:


Greg Andres, who this summer completed a cross-country bike tour of Canada (!), reports that: “What started as a business ethics working group years ago with members in the department has evolved into a writer’s co-operative with a forthcoming business ethics text from Oxford University Press. Many people throughout the years have been involved in some way or another with shaping the vision of this text. Many thanks for support from colleagues who encouraged us to write a textbook that we would want to teach from. We deliver a complete manuscript to OUP this fall and we are looking forward to a publication date of January 2021. The contributors are Bill Abbott, Greg Andres, Vanessa Correia, Sandie DeVries, Jim Jordan, Dylon McChesney, Jamie Sewell, Andy Stumpf, Chris Wass, and Sara Weaver.”


And Brian Orend’s War and Polity Theory was published in May by Polity:

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Enjoy the start of the new academic year!


End of May Update

Department Chair Patricia Marino reports: “I’ve been presenting papers on lots of different topics over the last couple of months. In March, graduate student Chris Wass and I were on a panel together at the PPE Society [] meeting in New Orleans — our topic was “Ethics and the Boundaries of Economic Reasoning.”

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PhD Candidate Chris Wass (left) and Dr. Patricia Marino at the PPE Conference in New Orleans

“In April,” she continues, “I was at the Pacific APA commenting on a book on Compassionate Moral Realism — at this event I was excited to see my new book on philosophy of sex and love at the Routledge display!” [See the following link for book contents, plus future posts for more—ed.]

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Patricia with new book from Routledge, Philosophy of Sex and Love: An Opinionated Introduction (2019)

“While I was there,” Patricia says, “I also got to see our grad alum Nora Boyd, currently an Assistant Professor at Sienna College.”

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Patricia (left) with Dr. Nora Boyd (right) of Sienna College

And: “In May, I was at “Business Ethics in the 6ix” [] — this is an interdisciplinary conference at the Ted Rogers School at Ryerson University that brings together business ethics people in the Greater Toronto Area. Drawing on examples in Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction, I presented an analysis of algorithms and their potential for racist and other discriminatory outcomes. I also have a new project on the use of mathematics in economic reasoning and recently discussed that at the Society for Exact Philosophy [] conference at York University.”

Dylon McChesney and Mathieu Doucet recently published an important article in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy on “Culpable Ignorance and Mental Disorders” . There, they argue that—contrary to some common presuppositions—having a mental disorder does not, of itself, offer a blanket exemption from moral blame. They deploy the tools of analytic philosophy, moral psychology, as well as empirical reference to cases and the American Psychiatric Association’s authoritative diagnostic manual DSM-5. They point out that some mental disorders have a lack of moral concern for others as a diagnostic criterion for the having of said disorder(s). And such lack of concern may lead to ignorance, and/or action, which can plausibly be seen as morally culpable or blameworthy. They conclude that their reasoning “… takes seriously the idea that those with mental disorders are capable of full moral agency, and that their conditions do not leave them outside, or even on the margins, of the moral community.”

Shannon Dea offers this narrative of our recent Kerr-Lawson Lecture: “Professor V. Denise James (Dayton) visited the Department as our second and final Angus Kerr-Lawson Memorial Lecturer. This lecture was endowed by the Hall family in memory of long-time Philosophy Department member Professor Angus Kerr-Lawson, who died in 2011. Professor Kerr-Lawson was particularly interested in pragmatism and American philosophy, especially the work of George Santayana and Charles Sanders Peirce.

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Dr. Angus Kerr-Lawson

“Professor V. Denise James is the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Program and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dayton.  She received her B.A. from Spelman College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Emory University. She was the recipient of the University of Dayton College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award in 2015 and the Outstanding Service Award in 2017.

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Dr. V. Denise James of the University of Dayton

“Dr. James’ scholarly work and advocacy involves getting critical clarity about the interplay of the politics of geography, identity, and social justice. She has published essays about the intersections of classical American pragmatism and black feminism, articles about street violence against young women and girls, radical social justice, and the philosophical significance of U.S. black feminist thinkers. She is at work on a book about the life and political significance of the black feminist poet, activist, and theorist Audre Lorde for our current moment.

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Audre Lorde

“Professor James’s Kerr-Lawson Memorial Lecture was entitled: “Growth and Survival, but Especially Survival: Black Feminism as Pragmatism.” The talk was preceded by recollections about Professor Kerr-Lawson by his colleague, Professor Emeritus Bill Abbott. Professor Kerr-Lawson’s widow, Marg, and their daughter, Kate, attended both the lecture and the previous day’s departmental awards reception.

“During her visit, Professor James generously met with various students and faculty, and ran a well-attended departmental discussion, “Philosophical Methods and Traditions: Being Pragmatic About It All.””

Shannon has remained very active apart from helping with all that. For example, she recently appeared on “Friday Four”, a weekly, hour-long news panel on the Mike Farlow Show (570News). She discussed the rise in gun crime in the region, municipal reform, and what the closure of the Original Princess Cinema portends for Uptown Waterloo. And she’s published two further columns in her series for University AffairsDispatches in Academic Freedom:

And late last month, Shannon, recent PhD alumnus Nathan Haydon, and M.A. student Scott Metzger all gave presentations at the “Pragmatism & Phenomenology Workshop: Female Figures” at King’s University College at Western University in London. This was the third iteration of a workshop which has alternated between King’s and Waterloo in recent years. Nathan presented on Simone Weil’s moral thought. Scott considered “Is Helen Longino a Pragmatist?” And Shannon led a workshop on Jane Addams’s sympathetic understanding, titled “Devil Baby Revisited.”

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Dr. Nathan Haydon (left) at the workshop, doing graphs with Dr. Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen (right) , President of the C.S. Pierce Society

And Shannon reports that: “Feminist Philosophers, the prominent international group blog, is closing down after 12 years of operation. The blog was founded by Professor Jennifer Saul (Sheffield), who will be joining our department in the fall; for years, I, Carla Fehr, and former UW philosopher, Tim Kenyon were among the co-bloggers. Here’s my final post, “Here at Feminist Philosophers…” (

Katy Fulfer recently attended the Northeast Modern Language Association meeting, held in Washington DC, to participate in a seminar on using Speculative Fiction to teach Social Justice. Her contribution to the seminar was entitled “Afrofuturism in Introductory Gender Classes.” This seminar was organized by UWaterloo PhD Candidate in English, Meghan Riley.

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Dr. Katy Fulfer (back row, at left) at the NMLA in Washington DC

On March 29, Katy presented “Refugee Rootlessness, Resettlement, and Assimilation” as part of Guelph’s Philosophy Colloquium Series. On April 5, she took this talk to her alma mater, Georgia State University (MA 2008), as part of their Prospective Students Day. And on April 11-13, she was in Edmonton for the Hannah Arendt Circle, a conference she co-organized. Katy will be the Chair of the Hannah Arendt Circle for 2019-2020, which will hold its next conference at the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College in Washington, DC April 16-18, 2020.

Dave DeVidi recently chaired the plenary session at the Steps Toward Inclusive Community event, sponsored by Guelph Services for the Autistic “to herald World Autism Day.” Three independently produced short films, each focusing on an adult with autism and what they and their supporters are doing to help them live a self-directed life in their community, premiered at the event. It also provided an opportunity for groups and individuals that support people with various cognitive differences to share bright ideas and innovations. While nominally about autism, DeVidi noted that the organizers felt “common cause with everyone who is committed to the values of acceptance and inclusion of people who reflect all the different forms of human diversity and difference.” He summarized the spirit of the event like this: “Being ‘safe and well looked after’ is important, but if that’s our only goal for those we care about we are stopping short. People who are different are often underestimated, sometimes even by themselves. When people have supports that allow them to recognize and pursue their interests and to develop their gifts, not only are their own lives enriched, but so are the lives of those lucky enough to know them.”

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From the “J.O.E.” (Jobs. Opportunities. Enterprise), a “work enclave” of young adults who did the catering for the event

Dave also reports that he will soon be taking up a new administrative post. As of July 1, he’ll be the University’s Associate Vice President Academic for the next five years. While this means he won’t be around the Philosophy Department as much as usual and that he won’t be doing much (if any) undergraduate teaching, he will still be involved in graduate supervision. “I like all parts of my job,” he says, “but I think grad supervision is the most fun. I’m glad I’ll still be able to do some of it.”

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Dr. Dave Devidi (right), soon to be the University’s new Associate Vice-President Academic, with one of his graduate students, award-winning PhD Candidate Catherine Klausen (left)

Finally, congratulations to one of our undergrad PHIL alums, Dr. Trystan Goetze, who has just been awarded a prestigious Government of Canada Banting Fellowship, to be held at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Dr. Goetze’s important and timely post-doctoral project shall focus on developing a model for what intellectual accountability means in a world increasingly saturated with “fake news” and other forms of information manipulation. See Dalhousie’s official Banting announcement at:

Happy summertime everyone: see you in the fall!

April Awards Season!

April was awards season here in the Department.

Department Chair Patricia Marino notes that: “We are delighted to announce that our own Dave DeVidi has been awarded the Arts Award for Excellence in Service for 2019! Dave’s record of service to the University of Waterloo community, and beyond, has been extraordinary. In addition to chairing our Department from 2012 to 2018, he served for years as the President of the Faculty Association and on many Faculty and University-level committees. Partly because of his long experience, he is often called on in an informal way to help out when complicated situations arise across campus. Beyond campus, he volunteers his time with individuals, institutions, and important causes. Previously, Dave was the inaugural winner of the Equity and Inclusivity Award. We are lucky to have him as a colleague and proud of his amazing accomplishments!”

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Dave DeVidi being awarded the 2019 Arts Excellence in Service Award

dave and jane prior to his award

And then celebrating after, here with his wife, Jane Forgay, UW Librarian….


arts awards lots of dept people

…and then here with many Department people. From left to right: Patricia Marino, Dave, Gerry Callaghan, Chris Wass, JohnTurri (standing), Angela Christelis (standing), Doreen Fraser, Mathieu Doucet, and Shannon Dea


Tawnessa Carter reports: “Yet another good time was had by all at the 10th annual philosophy, and women’s studies, awards ceremony in April. Our top undergraduate and graduate students received awards for their outstanding and insightful work during the current academic year.

Gerry Callaghan once again acted as MC, with his signature combination of wit and comic timing. Philosophy graduate, Lindsay Weir, graciously opened the event with some inspiring words about how much she loved her years studying philosophy, and how she uses it daily in her career. [ed.– Lindsay’s remarks are reprinted below]

“Thank you to all the students who worked hard this year in philosophy – you’re what makes our department so great! Congratulations to you all!”

Here are a handful of photos capturing the event:


Gerry Callaghan as Awards MC: none better! 🙂

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Department Chair Patricia Marino (right) presenting the philosophy first-year prize to Sharyn Gittens

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Mathieu Doucet (left) presenting the second-year philosophy prize to Kenny Hoang

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Doreen Fraser (left) presents the third-year philosophy prize to Kuil Schoneveld

awards foruth year gold medal

The fourth-year philosophy prize was awarded to Ashley Raspopovic (along with Adam Thibert, not pictured). Here she is shown (right), also being awarded the gold medal for undergraduate essay, with Nick Ray (left) and Friend of the Department Bob Ewen (middle). Bob has long generously supported the department, including its awards ceremony.

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Shannon Dea (right) presenting Clair Baleshta with the upper year prize in women’s studies

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And Patricia Marino (left) and Bob Ewen (middle) presented Chris Wass (right) with the silver medal for graduate-level philosophy essay.

Lindsay Weir’s remarks at the Department Awards ceremony were so well-received that we asked her permission to reprint them in their entirety, and share them with everyone, with gratitude, below.

lindsay weir

Department Alum, and Software Analyst, Lindsay Weir, spoke at the Department Awards Ceremony

“Since graduating, I’ve worked as an office manager and in Human Resources before landing in the world of tech. I am currently a Software QA Analyst for a company that makes smart city software. I like to call my job the “early warning system” of the software world. It’s my role to find issues before they get out to the client. In my career so far, my education in philosophy has been of value in a number of ways.

“First, I’m glad that I studied what I did because it was interesting, enjoyable, and what I wanted to do. I meet so many people who tell me that they wished they had studied philosophy in university but felt they had to do something else to get a job or live up to expectations placed on them. I’m happy to have taken the time to learn what I wanted to learn rather than being focused on a career path.

“I also feel like reading complex philosophical texts has prepared me for the fact that the world we live in is full of complex information and decision-making. When we decide who to vote for, or evaluate a health claim on the Internet (for example), we are often confronted with a lot of complex information. I feel like interacting with texts that have been translated or were written long ago has given me the ability to manage this complexity and make informed choices.

“Additionally, I feel like studying philosophy prepared me for situations where people disagree.  There are many very smart people who are not able to handle someone disagreeing with them or are unable to charitably disagree with someone else. In both cases, this is pretty unhelpful and does not lead to good interactions. I feel like philosophy helped me practice responding graciously to being disagreed with by others and also helped me develop the skills to charitably encapsulate someone’s argument and disagree with them in a way that is reasoned and effective.

“Although philosophy as a discipline is much more than a collection of technical or transferable skills, there are a few skills it teaches that I’ve found particularly helpful. The first is the ability to think critically and spot bias in yourself or others. Being able to do this allows you to make more reasoned decisions and be more responsible in your own thinking. On a technical level, the courses I took in formal logic have also been very helpful as I am learning to code, since the structure and operators found in code are very similar to those used in formal logic.

“In closing, I feel like my studies at Waterloo in the philosophy department have given me a very strong foundation for the rest of my career. I use many of the skills I learned on a daily basis and I also enjoy knowing that I had the time to learn about a subject that is interesting and engaging. I hope that this foundation can be every bit as useful to current and future students in their lives after graduation as it has been to me.”

March Update

On Friday, March 1st, graduate students from across UW’s Faculty of Arts convened for the annual Arts Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) heat. The event serves as a great opportunity for graduate students to share their research ideas with their peers and a rapt audience, perfect their ‘elevator pitch’, and convey the significance of their work. The Philosophy Department was very well-represented at this event!

Kathryn Morrison won the event, and will proceed to the university-wide finals on March 20th. She spoke on “The Right to Die for Mature Minors”. See this YouTube link for her full presentation:

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Kathryn Morrison speaks on “The Right to Die for Mature Minors” at UW Arts 3MT


Chris Wass spoke on “Exploring the Possibility of Professional Ethics for Economists”. See this YouTube link for his full presentation:

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Chris Wass speaks about “Exploring the Possibility of Professional Ethics for Economists” at UW’s Arts 3MT


On March 7-8, the Department was very happy to host the 26th annual Philosophy Graduate Student Association (PGSA) conference. Over 10 stimulating formal presentations were delivered, from scholars across Canada, Europe, and the United States, including the keynote address by Dr. Molly Gardner of Bowling Green State University, who spoke on “Doing Harm, Allowing Harm and The Trolley Problem.”

molly gardner

Dr. Molly Gardner, of Bowling Green State University, spoke on “Doing Harm, Allowing Harm, and The Trolley Problem” at the 26th PGSA Conference


The week of February 4, Professor John Corvino from Wayne State University visited the Department as our latest Rudrick Visiting Scholar, during which time he gave several talks and met with students and colleagues. Professor Corvino is the author or co-author of several books, including Debating Same-Sex Marriage (with Maggie Gallagher; 2012), What’s Wrong with Homosexuality? (2013), and, most recently, Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (with Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis, 2017), all from Oxford University Press.

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Dr. John Corvino, of Wayne State University, was the 2019 Rudrick Visiting Scholar

Dr. Corvino has appeared on CNN, ABC, FOX, MSNBC, CSPAN, and other TV and radio networks. Until 2011, his column “The Gay Moralist” ran weekly at; he has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Detroit Free Press, the Advocate, the Huffington PostThe New RepublicSlateSalon, and Commonweal, as well as various academic anthologies and journals.

Dr. Corvino is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2004 Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit City Council, a 2012 Distinguished Professor of the Year Award from the Presidents’ Council of the State Universities of Michigan, and the 2017 inaugural Community Hero Award from Affirmations LGBTQ Community Center. In the last 25 years he has spoken at over 250 campuses on issues of sexuality, ethics, and marriage. His online videos have received over two million views. The Rudrick Visiting Scholar program honours the memory of Dr. Brian Rudrick, an alumnus and longtime friend of our Department, who died suddenly in 2013.

Brian F. Rudrick (2)


Dr. Shannon Dea was a panelist on 570News’s Friday Four show on February 8. Among other current affairs, she discussed changes to Ontario’s public health system, and the federal SNC Lavalin controversy.

Shannon continues: “On February 11, I published my latest Dispatches on Academic Freedom post in University Affairs: “Two kinds of academic freedom? Lessons from a scholar who fled Turkey” ( And: “On February 20, I gave the opening keynote at UW’s W3 Represents Symposium. “W3” stands for “Waterloo Women’s Wednesdays” – a monthly meet-up event for women and non-binary people on campus. I founded W3 in 2012, and passed on its leadership to successors in 2017. This interdisciplinary conference was the first such event for W3.” Finally, on March 1, Shannon took part in a panel on “Diverse Knowledge in the Academy” as part of University of Toronto’s “Thinking towards Action: 2019 Underrepresented Philosophy Conference.”


On February 20, Dr. Katy Fulfer gave a talk entitled “Hannah Arendt, Responsibility, and Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.” At the W3 Represents Research Symposium, mentioned above. This talk examined the structure of the Private Sponsorship program using Hannah Arendt’s distinction between the public and private realms as a lens of analysis.

Katy also participated in several events to mark International Women’s Day. On March 7 she participated in a panel on “White Feminism in Higher Education – Waterloo Context”, which provided a critical take on how white-centered perspectives are structurally embedded in curricula and other parts of university life.

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At the International Women’s Day event, back row (left to right): Dr. Katy Fulfer and Lori Campbell. Bottom row (left to right): Fiqir Worku; Craig Fortier; and Kim H. Nguyen

The Women’s Studies Program is a sponsor of the International Women’s Day Dinner, which this year featured a keynote speech by Dr. Anita Layton, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematical Biology and Medicine. Katy represented the program at the dinner:

katy fulfer


If anyone missed the official UWaterloo story about the launch of the new Gender & Social Justice program, which will replace Women’s Studies as of this coming September 2019, they can read it here.


Dr. Doreen Fraser reports that: “A steady stream of prospective students and their parents visited the Philosophy, and Gender and Social Justice, booths at the March Break Open House and packed Dr. Greg Andres’ sample lecture “Why we can’t we have nice things?” Thank you to volunteers Theo Peng, Abigail Willms, Chris Lowry and Greg Andres for helping to make the day a success.”


Dr. Chris Lowry, at left, and Abigail Willms, at the March Break Open House

January Update

Brian Orend has just published a new book, Seizure the Day: Living A Happy Life with Illness, with Freehand Press [ ]:

seizure larger

Back cover accolades come from Roko Belic, director of the award-winning documentary Happy [ ] as well as from Darrin McMahon, Dartmouth historian and author of Happiness: A History. McMahon writes: “This is a beautiful book about struggle and overcoming, told with insight, wisdom, and good cheer. At once smart and funny, it will, quite literally, put a smile on your face.”

Seizure the Day is part medical memoir, part philosophy (leaning, e.g., on Aristotle’s account of well-being) and part empirical research, drawing from social- and political science as well as positive psychology. It’s Orend’s first book to crack the front-of-store display at Chapters/Indigo:



Shannon Dea informs us that: “My latest “Dispatches on Academic Freedom” column for University Affairs is “The Price of Academic Freedom.” It was published last week:

“As well,” she continues, “on December 18, I did interviews with a number of CBC Radio 1 morning shows about Ontario’s new campus free speech policies. I did interviews with Ontario Morning, London Morning, Superior Morning, The Morning Edition, Morning North, and Windsor Morning.” Here’s a link to the Ontario Morning interview:


Patricia Marino lets us know that: “In early January I went to NYC to present a paper at the APA Eastern Division Meeting on “Moderate Deontology, Arbitrariness, and the Problem of the Threshold.” In economics approaches to the law, outcomes are typically evaluated in terms of whether their consequences are efficient — just like in consequentialist ethical theory. Like ethical consequentialism, these approaches are criticized for leaving aside other values such as justice — particularly striking in the legal context.”


Patricia Marino gave a conference talk in NYC in January

She continues: “Alternative approaches – such as “moderate deontology” — try to bring consequences together with the kind of constraints found in other ethical theories. Those alternatives are accused of being arbitrary – because they rest on moral judgments. Using the ideas in my 2015 book Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World, I show how they are not, in fact, arbitrary at all. Fun fact about my presentation: sitting in the front row was our very own Emeritus Professor Jan Narveson!”


Tawnessa Carter reports exciting social media news: “We’ve recently created a YouTube channel for the philosophy department to post interesting and relevant videos by faculty, staff, students and alumni.  We will be posting videos of colloquium talks from here on in (if the speaker grants permission) to ensure that everyone has the ability to hear the talk if they cannot attend.  Please click below to see what we’ve posted so far.

I encourage you to add comments and likes to our videos.”