As the fall term draws to a close and winter officially begins, it is time to wrap up the year and wish everyone Happy Holidays!
First, warm congratulations to department alumnus and official Friend of the Department Bob Ewen (BA ’71), who received one of ten 60th Anniversary Alumni Awards from the University of Waterloo on December 2. He was honoured for “exemplify[ing] extraordinary University citizenship through volunteerism, mentorship, philanthropy and advocacy.” Bob has been a key supporter of the development of the Hagey Hub and other University initiatives, and has been a willing advisor and mentor to Arts students. We thank him for all he has done for the Department and the University!
Faculty have been busy giving talks in late fall. In November Patricia Marino participated in a really interesting inter-disciplinary conference on Law and Economics in Helsinki. The conference, co-sponsored by the group MetaLawEcon and the TINT at the University of Helksini, was attended by a diverse and international group of scholars, and sought to examine Law and Economics from an epistemological and philosophy of science perspective. Patricia presented a paper that brought debates on value pluralism and moral reasoning into contact with related debates over the use of consequentialism in Law and Economics contexts, and commented on a really interesting paper about the ethics and economics of climate change. She also learned a lot about the economics of immigration, property law, and many other interesting things!
Closer to home in November, Jackie Feke organized and chaired a session at the History of Science Society meeting in Toronto called “Technē and Training: New Perspectives on Pre-Modern Scientific and Technical Education.” The session featured papers on medicine in ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greek medicine, Roman architecture, and mining technology in 16th-century Bolivia.
She also gave a colloquium talk to the Department of Science & Technology Studies at York University called “Three Ancient Greek Mathematicians Against Philosophers.”
Dave DeVidi presented his paper “On What there Is, What There Isn’t, and None of the Above,” at McMaster University on November 3 and at the Western University on December 2. He says: “The crowds were substantial, and judging by the questions at least most of them were able to stay awake throughout. It was a pleasure to be reminded of how healthy the philosophical community is in this part of Ontario.”
On November 24, Shannon Dea participated in a discussion of her paper “Toward A Philosophy of Harm Reduction” at Concordia University by members of Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique de Montreal (GRIPP). Her paper discusses the two philosophers who have published on harm reduction, herself and McGill Law School Professor Daniel Weinstock. Shannon and he are now planning a workshop on harm reduction to be held at McGill in the new year. Stay tuned!
Two of our graduate seminars had exciting conclusions this fall. Doreen Fraser’s seminar on Philosophy of Quantum Theory closed with a Q&A session with Lucien Hardy (Perimeter Institute), one of several visitors from Western and Perimeter this term. Doreen reports that the seminar exemplified engaged philosophy, bringing together graduate and undergraduate students from Philosophy, Physics, and Applied Mathematics. They had lively and productive discussions on the themes of the realism–anti-realism debate in the philosophy of science and the contemporary quantum physics research program of reconstructing quantum theory. (This program involves proposing physical principles that inform mathematically-formulated axioms, and then re-deriving the standard formalism for quantum theory from these axioms.) Doreen says: “I was very pleased with the way the class rose to the challenges posed by the subject matter and by communicating constructively across disciplinary boundaries!”
Shannon Dea’s seminar on Harm Reduction held a one day mini-conference on Philosophy of Harm Reduction at which students in the class presented their work to each other, the public, and harm reductioner practitioners from the community. The conference also featured a roundtable discussion with Tom Cull (London Ontario Poet Laureate and Thames River Rally founder), Colin McVicker (Program Director, Sanguen Health Centre), and Hayley Smuts (Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area Harm Reduction Program Placement Student). The students presented the following cutting edge research: Theodore Peng, “Harm Reduction of Non-Existent Persons”; Dominic Rogalski, “Shifting Attitudes: Palliative Care as Harm Reduction”; Priscilla Larbi, “Catering Harm Reduction Interventions to the Needs of Sub-Saharan Africa”; Sabah Khokhar, “Changing Rape Culture in India”; Jay Solanki, “Situating Harm Reduction, Motivating Philosophy”; Hai-Dao Le-Nguyen, “A HR Approach to Algorithms”; Bryan Igreja, “Putting the Red in Harm Reduction: What Socialism Can Bring to HR and Sex Work”; Alex Gruenewald, “Re-assessing the Triadic Model of Care for Trans Patients Using a Harm-Reduction Approach.” Jonathan Zaid was unable to present his research on using affordable cannabis to fight the opioid crisis because, excitingly, he was meeting with the Prime Minister that day to lobby for medical uses of cannabis. (Jonathan is the founder and Executive Director of Canadians For Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.)
In publishing news, Patricia Marino’s paper “Value Pluralism, Moral Diversity, Moral Reasoning, and the Foundations of Bioethics” was recently published in a special journal issue of Ethics, Medicine and Public Health and is available for free download for a limited time here.
She also had a paper on the “Ethical Implications of Scientific Imperialism: Two Examples from Economics,” recently published in the collection Scientific Imperialism: Exploring the Boundaries of Interdisciplinarity (edited by Uskali Mäki, Adrian Walsh, Manuela Fernández Pinto, Routledge 2018).
Also, Andria Bianchi had a book review published in the Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, looking at Gender Testing in Sports: Ethics, cases, and controversies.
In other news, Shannon Dea was a panelist on TVOntario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin November 30 for a discussion of “Freedom of Expression on Campus.” Shannon writes: “The discussion was prompted by recent events at Wilfrid Laurier University involving a teaching assistant who has complained about pushback she received from WLU over a video she showed and a subsequent discussion she led in one of her tutorials. On the panel, I took the view that academic freedom is importantly distinct from freedom of expression, and that it is appropriate to design courses in a way that supports marginalized students.” In a December 15 blog post, host of the show Steve Paikin discussed the abuse that women and other marginalized people often receive when they venture into the media, including some of the abuse Shannon received after the show.
Heather Douglas talked with Why? radio host and University of North Dakota philosophy professor Jack Weinstein about science, values, and democracy. The program was broadcast on December 10 on Prairie Public Radio. The discussion was wide ranging and lots of fun. She has received no nasty emails from this show, for which she is grateful.
Finally, the department bid Tim Kenyon a fond farewell on December 15. Tim is leaving the University of Waterloo to take up the position of Vice President of Research at Brock University. Tim has been a central figure in the Department of Philosophy and the Faculty of Arts for many years, serving as Chair of the Department and then as Associate Dean of Research for Arts. There is much that can be said about Tim, but this poem by Gerry Callaghan sums up the important parts nicely:
’Twas Keats who wrote that beauty is truth,
That this is all we know on earth,
Withal it’s all we need to know,
To which I say, “Not so! Take Kenyon.”
A man for truth, ever there was,
Pursues it as a holy cause,
But as for beauty, dear oh dear,
I’ve seen him in his cycling gear,
Donned like a paint or second skin,
The man in full stuffed tight within—
The garish sheen, the harsh palette,
The gaud, and O the silhouette;
For this, I own I lack the words.
I’d have to speak in gasps and surds,
Though some there be could meet the task;
“Who,” you ask? Take Kenyon,
A wordsmith of the highest rank,
Though not for show, no mountebank
Is he, his terms so apt and clear,
Hard though they be upon the ear:
Take “sebaceous” or “incandescent,”
“Dispositive,” and on and on—
The stuff of truth, the death of song.
(In fairness, he’s not bad with songs;
I’ve heard him sing at sing-alongs.)
To Keats, then, is it such a shame
If truth and beauty aren’t the same?
Which, veracity or art,
Is injured when they come apart?
Neither!, for when truth is plain,
Beauty will rest and not complain.
Her hour will come around again;
’Til then, we’ll just take Kenyon.
Want to read more? More news about the department’s doings can be found in the most recent version of The Rational Enquirer, a newsletter for friends and alumni.
Additional online faculty writings can be found at these blogs: