11th Annual Philosophy Awards

Usually we would gather at the end of Winter term for our Department Awards Ceremony. The ceremony had to be cancelled this year, but we still have deserving prize winners to celebrate! The Philosophy Awards Committee received many strong nominations for these prizes and had difficult decisions to make.

These awards are made possible by generous donors. We are deeply appreciative of their support. For years, Bob Ewen has donated toward making the class prizes and essay prizes possible, and recently Bob gifted to our Department an endowed fund that will support these awards for years to come. Thank you, Bob! We’d also like to thank the friends and family of former faculty member Angus Kerr-Lawson for funding the Kerr-Lawson essay prize.

With these gifts, not only does the money make such an important difference to the students, but in addition our community benefits so much from the supportive message of the gifts themselves — that in these difficult times, what we are doing has meaning beyond the classroom. The awards also allow us to come together, even if only in virtual space!

Philosophy Undergraduate Class Prizes

First Year Prize – Kyra Kestrel (co-winner)

Kyra was one of the top students in PHIL 101 in Winter 2020. Jackie Feke describes Kyra as “very engaged in the class-wide discussions” and notes that Kyra’s performance on the tests was outstanding.

First Year Prize – Layla Hussain (co-winner)

Layla was a top student in both PHIL 101 and PHIL 121 this year. For PHIL 121, Mathieu Doucet comments that “Layla’s term paper on the ethics of eating animals was polished, thoughtful, and philosophically sophisticated.”

Second Year Prize – Stuart Morden

Stuart’s performance in PHIL courses this year was uniformly strong. Stuart’s term paper for PHIL 251 Metaphysics and Epistemology on McDowell’s critique of coherentism is described by Doreen Fraser as “standing out for its clear explanations and clear and compelling analysis of the arguments.”

Third Year Prize – Ezri Chernak

Ian MacDonald shares that “Ezri made a series of intelligent and important contributions to our class, PHIL 324 Social and Political Philosophy, revealing to me how dedicated he is to philosophical thinking and how excellent he is as a student.” And from Mathieu Doucet: “As just a 3rd year student, Ezri was an active and valuable contributor to the PHIL 420 Addiction seminar, and wrote an excellent paper on policing and addiction in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.”

Fourth Year Prize – Clair Baleshta

Clair is a Philosophy minor who excelled in many Philosophy classes this year. Mathieu Doucet explains that “In a group of strong students— including several graduate students— Clair’s work in the PHIL 420 Addiction seminar stood out for its insights, its careful attention to detail, and its charitable and constructive approach to the important topics it engaged.” Nick Ray reflects that “Every professor hopes to see a student like Clair in the classroom: someone who is always active in class discussion, who writes the most amazing papers, and who shows her leadership in group work. She cares deeply about the material, which is readily apparent when examining her work!”

Philosophy Essay Prizes

Undergraduate Essay Prize: Gold Medal

Clair Baleshta, “Clarifying the Civil Rights and Liberties Conflict through an Appeal to Relational Autonomy” for PHIL 327 Philosophy of Law

Clair argues that civil liberties rest on a traditional view of autonomy, whereas civil rights are predicated upon a more relational understanding of autonomy. Drawing on work in legal philosophy by Richard Delgado and the recent relational autonomy literature in ethics and political philosophy, Clair deftly argues that conflicts between civil liberties and civil rights are inevitable because of these differing conceptions of autonomy; but knowing this fact helps us diagnose and mediate such conflicts, as opposed to ignoring or downplaying their significance. (Nick Ray)

Undergraduate Essay Prize: Silver Medal

Hai-Dao Le-Nguyen, “Reframing ‘functioning’: the neurodiversity paradigm and doulia” for PHIL 422 Justice and Disability

Hai-Dao’s paper exhibits her everpresent concern with social justice and her skill at bringing several lines of thought into productive conversation. She makes use of ideas about neurodiversity and epistemic authority in order to provide a sympathetic critique of Kittay’s modifications of Rawls’s account of justice, in support of Autistic persons’ autonomy and self-advocacy. (Chris Lowry)

Undergraduate Essay Prize: Bronze Medal

Benjamin Ang, “Modal representationalism as an integration of traditional representationalism and new theories of embodied cognition” for PHIL 256 Intro to Cognitive Science

This paper offers an excellent and concise overview of the schism between the dominant and traditional computational-representational theory of mind (CRTM), and embodied theories of cognition that have placed pressure on the CRTM over the past 20 or 30 years. Ben couples an impressive understanding of the theoretical terrain with recent empirical work in order to find a mid-way position (“modal representationalism”) that seeks to blend the best of traditional and embodied theories of cognition, while nicely avoiding the pitfalls of other attempts to synthesize the two frameworks. (Nick Ray)

Graduate Essay Prize: Gold Medal

Jay Solanki, Chapter 1 of “Harm Reduction is a Social Movement”

The thesis offers an assiduously researched history of harm reduction and a sophisticated argument for understanding harm reduction as a critical, peer-based, grassroots social movement rather than a mechanism of public health policy and practice. The winning chapter surveys the history of harm reduction and scans the philosophical literature on harm reduction in order to map the very different extant characterizations of just what harm reduction is. This chapter, like the thesis as a whole, is a remarkable piece of scholarship — sophisticated, nuanced, challenging, and rich. (Shannon Dea)

Graduate Essay Prize: Silver Medal

Ashley Raspopovic, “Dogwhistles and figleaves: The function of high-BMI terms”

This is a really wonderful original paper that carefully develops the ways in which terms like ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ serve to dogwhistle stigmatizing attitudes. It then goes even further, looking at ways that medical contexts provide fig leaves that obscure the way that these terms stigmatize. It is very much a publishable piece of work. (Jenny Saul)

Graduate Essay Prize: Bronze Medal

Scott Metzger, “Overcoming The Normative Divide In Constructionist Critique: Description, Amelioration, and Pragmatism”

In his lively and stimulating paper, Scott argues that the pragmatism of Peirce, Putnam, and Pihlstrom get us past the normative divide by collapsing the dichotomy between fact and value. The paper is beautifully organized and deftly argued. Scott weaves such disparate figures as Haslanger, Hume, and Pihlstrom together amazingly well. (Shannon Dea)

Angus Kerr-Lawson Essay Prize: Awarded in honour of former faculty member Angus Kerr-Lawson for the best undergraduate or graduate paper in American or naturalistic philosophy

Angella Yamamoto, “Eliminativist Ontic Relevant Relationalism”

This highly original paper evaluates the prospects of structural realism as an account of representation in biology. This is novel because structural realism has primarily been applied to scientific theories in which mathematical structures play a central role in representing the world. Angella’s paper offers a careful and compelling analysis that attends to different versions of structural realism and arguments raised by critics, as well as the messy details of biological processes. (Doreen Fraser)


May 2020

Greetings from quarantine!

We are happy to announce that, due to the generosity of department alumnus Michael Mitias, we have a new donor-funded essay prize, the Lawrence Haworth Scholarship prize!

Prof. Lawrence (Larry) Haworth is a distinguished professor emeritus of our department, who taught here from 1965 to 1995. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and author of several books including Autonomy, The Good CityDecadence and Objectivity, as well as, with others, Value Assumptions in Risk Assessment and, most recently, A Textured Life.

Prof. Michael Mitias, a philosopher who has taught at Millsaps College and the University of Kuwait, received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Waterloo in 1971 and is the author of several books and many articles in aesthetics, philosophy of religion, and other topics. His recent books include My Father the Immigrant; Seeking God: A Mystic’s Way; Friendship: A Central Moral Value; Love Letters: Abyss of Loneliness; Moral Foundation of the State; and What Makes an Experience Aesthetic?

Prof. Mitias says, “This prize enables me to honor one of the few professors who were influential in helping me stand on my feet as a person and as a philosopher. I know I am not the only student who feels this about this educator, philosopher, and servant of philosophy. This man is an embodiment of goodness, practical wisdom, and the spirit of philosophy.”

For the next five years, the prize of $2,000 will go to the undergraduate with the best essay in public philosophy, and it will be awarded along with our other student awards in April. We hope that the first Lawrence Haworth Scholarship prize can be awarded in person in April 2021!

Jackie Feke’s book, Ptolemy’s Philosophy: Mathematics as a Way of Life, has been short-listed for the British Society for the History of Science’s 2020 Pickstone Prize! This prestigious prize is awarded every two years to the best scholarly book in the history of science (broadly construed) in English, and aims to recognize pioneering works that advance the scholarly understanding and interpretation of the scientific past. Check out more details at the BSHS.


Feke_PtolemysPhilosophy, cover

Cait O’Donnell presented her Ph.D. research at the annual (virtual) research forum for the Canadian Assessors and Medical Assistance in Dying Providers on April 30. Her talk was called “Understanding the Relationship between Palliative Care and Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in Canada.” Cait says, “The work was very well received.”

Greg Cote’s paper “Jeremy Bentham and the Genesis of Modern Policing” has been accepted for presentation at the International Society of Utilitarian Studies in Chicago next year. The conference was supposed to be held this summer but has been delayed due to the pandemic until the summer of 2021.

Jenny Saul has been working with colleagues at the University of Sheffield to help the U.K. Cabinet Office develop a strategy for improving diversity and equality in the Government Security Group. Over the last 18 months, they have worked to put in place better practices and norms around hiring processes, retention of staff, and working environment. So far, there have been changes to recruitment procedures and materials, changes in training provided, and recommendations made on how to gather data about people’s experiences in the workplace.

Over a year ago, when still at Sheffield, Jenny Saul was contacted by the head of the U.K. Office for Statistics Regulation. He had read her book Lying, Misleading, and What is Said and wanted to chat. Jenny ended up working with his team, both in person and at a distance, to develop a framework for thinking about misleading uses of statistics. On May 21, they published the first phase of this project, a think-piece to inform the consultation stage of the project. Jenny writes, “This was one of the most fun things I’ve done professionally. The statisticians had never studied philosophy, and I’d never studied statistics, but we had a fantastic time working through cases and definitions together. It was a great example of how theoretical work can really pay off with practical applicants.”



Jenny Saul’s Think-piece

Jenny is part of a team running a new online work-in-progress seminar series, Social (Distance) Epistemology. If you’d like to be a part of the series, click here.

Shannon Dea published two Dispatches on Academic Freedom in University Affairs: “Avoiding communications snafus in the era of COVID-19” and “Should sports coaches have academic freedom?” The former was cross-posted on the FAUW Blog.

Shannon’s review of Hilary Malatino’s Queer Embodiment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience appeared in Hypatia Reviews Online.

Shannon has accepted the position of Dean of Arts at the University of Regina, effective September 1, 2020. Congratulations, Shannon!

Want to read more? See the latest issue of our alumni newsletter, The Rational Enquirer.

Rational Enquirer


April 2020

Our department members have been socially distancing since mid-March, when we moved our classes online, but before then we held the 27th Annual PGSA Conference. Dr. Audrey Yap, of University of Victoria, gave the keynote lecture, “Beyond Predators and Good Guys: Feminist Epistemology and Rape Culture.” The conference also featured talks by three of our Ph.D. students. Thomas Milovac presented his talk “Heuristics as the Source of Credibility Judgements.” Charli Steele presented “The Drawbacks of ‘Nonbinary.’” Angella Yamamoto spoke on “Issues when Applying Structuralism to Biology.”

Charli Steele

Charli Steele presenting at the PGSA

Angella Yamamoto

Angella Yamamoto presenting at the PGSA

Shannon Dea published her latest Dispatch on Academic Freedom, “Academic Freedom in the Time of Coronavirus.” The post received a lot of traffic and was featured in the Scholars at Risk Media Review as well as the Academica Top Ten.

Katy Fulfer attended the “Rethinking Responses to Political Crisis and Collapse” conference at King’s University College, Western University, in London, Ontario, the first weekend of March. The conference focused on four women thinkers—Hannah Arendt, Rosa Luxemburg, Edith Stein, and Simone Weil—fitting for the weekend of International Women’s Day. Katy presented a work-in-progress with her co-author, Dr. Rita A. Gardiner, on the political potential of family and family-like relationships that Arendt presents in her essay on the socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.

Rita and Katy March 2020

Katy Fulfer with her co-author, Rita A. Gardiner

Although the Gender & Social Justice Program launch celebration unfortunately has been cancelled, along with our annual awards ceremony, we want to recognize this year’s GSJ prize winners.

The Upper-Year Prize has been co-awarded to Jillian Barlow and Lauren Pazzano.

Prof. Alicia Batten, from Religious and Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, shares some thoughts about Jillian: “Jillian Barlow combines careful, considerate reflection with incisive and original analysis. Jillian demonstrates genuine curiosity and works hard not only for the sake of clearer understanding and academic success, but for the betterment of the world, and the empowerment of those who have been historically marginalized.”

Shannon Dea emphasized Lauren’s creativity, intellectual curiosity, and willingness to take risks. She shared this about Lauren: “In her final assessment for one of her senior courses this year, Lauren wrote and illustrated a children’s picture book about abortion and bodily autonomy. You might think that the topic is too difficult for the small children at whom the book is aimed. However, Lauren cleverly grounded the book in an analogy between swallowing a watermelon seed and having an unplanned pregnancy. By exploring her young protagonist’s fears and responses to swallowing the seed, Lauren was able to teach children about bodily autonomy in an age-appropriate way. Lauren’s practical, creative, interdisciplinary approach to social justice makes her a deserving recipient of the GSJ upper year prize. Congratulations, Lauren!”

The First-Year Prize has been awarded to Thea Andres. Dr. Trevor Holmes describes Thea as “a very, very conscientious member of the course in class discussions and online. Thea grappled exceedingly well with intellectually challenging content in critically-reflective and productive ways.” Katy Fulfer shares Trevor’s sense of Thea; Katy relates that in her course, for example, Thea created an educational infographic on the Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege that brought together several themes they had discussed in class and provided a contextual look at Mukwege’s work.

The Sandra Burt Essay Prize has been awarded to Madison Van Es for her paper “How Wexit became the New Fascist Identity,” which was written for a course on social-political change and philosophy of language. Jenny Saul made this remark about Madison’s paper: “Wexit [was] a movement which was so new that there was no literature to speak of on it. She did her own research on the rhetoric of Wexit supporters, and made careful and impressive use of Jason Stanley’s work on Fascism to analyze the dangers of this newly emerging rhetoric. This, to my mind, represents the very best of applied philosophy—applying the tools of philosophy in real time, to understand our world as it changes around us. This was an enormously impressive original work.”

Congratulations to all the GSJ prize winners!

That’s all the news for now. Stay safe, everyone!


PGSA audience (by Cael Dobson)

March 2020

Happy March! As we’ve been making our way through the winter months, our department members have been publishing their research, giving talks, and hosting a conference and other events.

First, congratulations to Ph.D. student Janet Jones, who had a paper accepted by the journal “Rejoinders!” Another version of this work, “Developing the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy,” is now online at Impact Ethics.

Patricia Marino just returned from the Central APA where she gave a presentation as part of an author-meets-critics session on the book The Evolution of Moral Progress by Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell. The book centers inclusivity as a kind of moral progress, explores how the modern human rights movement exemplifies the most important gains in inclusivity, and suggests links between inclusivity and the prosperity of contemporary market-based societies. Patricia says, “Among other things, my comment sought to challenge the focus on ‘inclusivity,’ complicated the idea of a link between prosperity and openness, and explored some of what I call the ‘darker side’ of markets.”

Jenny Saul gave the Mesthene Lecture at Rutgers University: “Pragmatics in the Age of Trump and Brexit: Real-Time Applied Philosophy of Language.” She also gave the keynote lecture at the Under-Represented Philosophy Conference in Toronto. The lecture was called “Implicit Bias in Philosophy: What to Do and What Not to Do.”

Katy Fulfer also travelled to Toronto, where her paper “Political Belonging and Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program” was workshopped at the Southwestern Ontario Feminist Philosophers Workshop. Katy explains, “This venue is such a supportive way to receive feedback from colleagues on a work in progress! Two papers are circulated in advance, and the time we spend together is devoted to strengthening our arguments.”

This weekend Katy will be in London, Ontario, at King’s University College for the “Rethinking Political Responses to Crisis and Collapse” conference, which focuses on the thought of four women philosophers: Hannah Arendt, Edith Stein, Rosa Luxemburg, and Simone Weil. Katy’s presentation, co-authored with Dr. Rita A. Gardiner from the Faculty of Education at Western University, is called “Family Matters? Rethinking the Political with Arendt and Luxemburg.” The talk focuses on Arendt’s essay on Rosa Luxemburg, one of just two women to appear in her collection of essays, Men in Dark Times.

 Jackie Feke gave a colloquium talk called “Ancient Greek Mathematics as Philosophy” to the Department of Philosophy at McMaster University.

On February 14, Shannon Dea appeared in her regular monthly guest slot on 570News’ “Friday Four” show to discuss issues ranging from local politics to whether Canada should allow Huawei to participate in its 5G network. On February 21, she spoke to the people gathered in Carl Zehr Square in downtown Kitchener in support of striking Ontario teachers. A recording of Shannon’s speech is available here.

Shannon's speech

Shannon speaking at the strike rally

On February 26, Jenny Saul and Shannon Dea hosted the first event—a working lunch—for their new Deweaponizing Social Media research group. The interdisciplinary group draws together scholars and practitioners from the humanities, social and health sciences, computer science, and tech industry to better understand and address the harms generated by and on social media. Their next event will be a workshop held in April.

This year, our department has been fortunate to host a number of international scholars. Education doctoral student Xiuxia (Lindsey) Liu from East China Normal University in Shanghai was a visiting scholar in the department until late December. In January Martina Rosola, a Ph.D. student at University of Sheffield, visited the department for about a month. In February, Dr. Federica Berdini, a philosopher from University of Munich, joined the department as a visiting scholar. Federica will give a talk to the department in late April. Another University of Sheffield doctoral student, Anna Klieber, has just begun a month-long visit to the department.

Xiuxia Liu

Xiuxia Liu at her going away party

This term, the Gender and Social Justice society hosted a welcome-back dinner for faculty and students. The dinner featured lively conversations with people interested in social justice, not only in the GSJ program but also more broadly. The GSJ society also hosted a pin-making event with the Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies society. The official GSJ launch will take place on April 2nd and the GSJ society will have a presence at the event. Anyone interested in getting involved for the rest of this term, future terms, or who has any suggestions for the team should reach out through Facebook, Twitter, or email (uwgsjsociety@gmail.com).

Our department currently is hosting the 27th Annual Philosophy Graduate Student Association Conference. The schedule is posted online and features a keynote lecture by Dr. Audrey Yap of University of Victoria. The keynote lecture, entitled “Beyond Predators and Good Guys: Feminist Epistemology and Rape Culture,” will be held March 6, from 3:00-5:30pm in Hagey Hall, room 1104. Hope to see you there!

Audrey Yap

Audrey Yap, keynote speaker at PGSA conference

January 2020

Happy new year! Over the past few months our department members have been giving talks and winning prizes.

First, congratulations to Shannon Dea, who won a national prize! In early January, one of Shannon’s University Affairs columns, “My Office Door and the Campus Free Speech Crisis that Never Was,” won silver in the Canadian Online Publishing Awards “best business blog” category. The gold prize was won by former Chief Supreme Court Justice Beverley MacLachlin, who herself has two philosophy degrees. Shannon notes, “The lesson seems to be that women philosophers write great business blogs!”


Shannon Dea’s Canadian Online Publishing Award

Shannon published her latest University Affairs column, which summarizes two major campus free speech stories from recent months.

Shannon also joined 570 News radio’s Friday Four panel to discuss topics ranging from the Ontario teachers’ job action to Maple Leaf Foods President CEO Michael McCain’s Twitter invective against U.S. President Donald Trump. Starting next month, Shannon joins the panel as a regular commentator.

Congratulations to Ian MacDonald, who also won a prize! In early January, Ian attended the APA Eastern Division Meeting in Philadelphia, where he gave a presentation to the Charles Sanders Peirce Society on his essay, “Did Peirce Misrepresent Descartes? Reinvestigating and Defending Peirce’s Case.” In October, the society awarded him the Peirce Essay Prize. He reports, “Overall, I quite enjoyed the experience and the chats I had with fellow Peirce scholars. It turns out that I really like Philly, too, especially the architecture and the people.”

In December, Jenny Saul gave the Human Values Endowed Lecture at The University of Seattle: “What is Happening to our Norms Against Racist Speech?” Jenny explains, “The talk is an effort to make sense of why it is that overtly racist speech by politicians has become increasingly widespread, given the previously accepted wisdom that such speech would doom a political campaign.”

On Dec. 12, Katy Fulfer gave a talk entitled “Private Sponsorship and Public Freedom: An Arendtian Analysis” to the Migration Mobilities and Social Politics Research Cluster at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo. Come see her give this talk again next week on Feb. 7! Katy would also like to encourage everyone to check out the “At Home with Arendt” blog series, which features work by the collaborators on her SSHRC grant: Janet Jones, Harshita Jaiprakash, and Rita A. Gardiner.

In December, Patricia Marino was a critic in an author-meets-critics session on Brian Weatherson’s new book Normative Externalism at Ryerson. Patricia reports, “In addition to some great discussion about metaethics, I enjoyed seeing some philosopher friends in the GTA. Normative Externalism argues that people should follow the correct principles, rather than doing what they think is right. If you’re interested in checking out my comments, they are posted on my website here.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-30 at 9.16.28 PM

At the Central APA in February, Patricia will be critiquing Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell’s new book The Evolution of Moral Progress on Saturday, Feb. 29, from 11:45 to 1:45. If you’re going to the Central APA, or simply in Chicago, check it out!

In November, Jackie Feke gave a colloquium talk to the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph: “Ancient Greek Mathematics as Philosophy.” She gave a shorter version of the paper as part of the Special Sessions on History of Mathematics at the Joint Mathematics Meetings of America in Denver, Colorado, earlier this month.

In the summer, Doreen Fraser was part of a panel discussion on Einstein at the Stratford Festival that has now been broadcast on CBC Ideas. The podcast is available here.

Nathan Haydon, PhD alumnus, visited the department from Tallinn, Estonia. He is continuing his work on Peirce’s logic at TalTech in Tallinn, Estonia. He’s part of the new Compositional Systems and Methods group in the Department of Software Science, and he’ll continue working on diagrammatic reasoning and formalizing a graphical logical notation. He’s now surrounded by applied category theorists, and he reports that he’s excited to pick up some of that related terrain as well! While here, Nathan gave a lunchtime talk: “Compositional Diagrammatic First Order Logic: Peirce’s Beta with string diagrams.”


Nathan Haydon presenting his lunchtime talk

The Gender and Social Justice Society welcomed back students and faculty with a pizza party on Jan. 23. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to stay in the loop on upcoming projects.

Gender and Social Justice Adjunct Professor Ann Innis Dagg has had an amazing few months. In October, she received an honorary degree at the Faculty of Science’s fall convocation. The next month, the Faculty of Science held a free public screening of the 2018 documentary of Ann’s life and work, The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. Shannon Dea was honoured to offer introductory remarks about Ann and her contributions to feminism at the beginning of the screening. Shannon says, “The event was extremely well-attended, and Ann was scrummed by her fans afterwards.” In December, Ann was named to the Order of Canada for her achievements. What’s next for Ann? As attendees of the film screening night learned, a Hollywood producer has optioned the rights to Ann’s story and a full-scale feature film is in the works!


Ann Innis Dagg signs a copy of her book, The Woman Who Loves Giraffes, for Gabby Shaker

Thanks for reading! Keep up to date on our upcoming events here.

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:

Ty Branch convocation

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”:

PM and SD

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 [http://www.cswip.ca/] and at a bioethics workshop at the Romanell Center at the University at Buffalo. Here’s a picture of the conference speakers in Buffalo”:

patricia's bioethics workshop

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” [https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/dispatches-academic-freedom/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: [https://peircesociety.org/home].


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.”

indigenous image

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.


kyle powys white

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 [https://peircesociety.org/home] 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.”)

Descartes (1)

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.

hannah arendt

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:  https://undergraduateawards.com/winners/highly-commended-2019]  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 [https://philosophy.sas.upenn.edu/people/quayshawn-spencer] spoke to us on September 13th about: “One More Radical Solution to the Race Problem.”

quayshawn spencer

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 [https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/liam.shields.html] spoke to us on September 27th about: “The Distribution of Parental Rights and Third Party Interests.

liam shields

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 [https://www.queensu.ca/philosophy/guenther-lisa] spoke to us about “No Prisons on Stolen Land: Prison Abolition and Decolonization as Interconnected Struggles.”


lisa guenther

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: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/philosophy/staff/profiles/saul

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.”

feke 2

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: https://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/looking-ahead-in-higher-ed-what-keeps-university-affairs-columnists-up-at-night/. 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: https://thewalrus.ca/are-university-campuses-where-free-speech-goes-to-die/
  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: https://www.routledge.com/Philosophy-of-Sex-and-Love-An-Opinionated-Introduction/Marino/p/book/9781138391000. And watch this podcast interview with her about it: https://newbooksnetwork.com/patricia-marino-philosophy-of-sex-and-love-routledge-2019/


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: http://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509524969

war and pt cover

Enjoy the start of the new academic year!