Monthly Archives: April 2013

Wednesday April 24, 2013

As many of you know, last week was our department’s annual awards celebration and general end-of-the-year-party.

One of the things we do at this event is connect up with current Friends of the Department and invite new ones, and we were very glad our Friends Bob Ewan and Gerry Remers were able to join us and participate in the presentation.  It is always nice to see our Friends, and Bob and Gerry both shared interesting reflections on the role of a philosophy and arts education in modern life and modern business.

Our first agenda item was to formally install a new Friend of the Department, Brian Rudrick.  Having invited Brian to join our Friends recently, we were shocked and saddened at his sudden death several weeks ago.  Inducting him as Friend posthumously, Tim Kenyon shared with us his memories of Brian’s warmth and lifetime intellectual curiosity.  Here’s a picture of Tim holding the plaque that honors the occasion:

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Tim Kenyon posthumously installs Brian Rudrick as a Friend of the Philosophy Department.

Then the main event:  student prize giving!

The first year prize was split as a tie between Martin Zelko, prestented by Carla Fehr, and Bethany Roorda, presented by me, Patricia Marino.

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Carla Fehr presenting one of two first-year prizes to Martin Zelko

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Patricia Marino presenting one of the two first-year prizes to Bethany Roorda.

The second year prize was awarded to Julia Hill, presented by Mathieu Doucet.

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Matt Doucet awarding the second-year prize to Julia Hill.

The third year prize was awarded to Raya Sidhu, presented again by Mathieu Doucet.

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The fourth year prize was also a tie, between Mike Kelly, presented by Shannon Dea, and Claire Gallant, presented by Dave DeVidi.

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Shannon Dea presenting one of the two fourth-year prizes.

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Dave DeVidi presenting one of the two fourth-year prizes to Claire Gallant.

Professor Emerita Judy Wubnig funds two prizes for papers in the history of philosophy, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level.  The undergraduate winner was Robert Mason, for his paper “Abandoning the Silencing Requirement for Virtue,” and the graduate winner was Ben Nelson, for his paper “Unwritten Law: Three Selections from the History of Political Philosophy.”

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Ben Nelson, Judy Wubnig, and Robert Mason

Another essay prize honors the memory of our late Distinguish Professor Emeritus Angus Kerr-Lawson.  This prize is given to the best graduate or undergraduate paper in naturalistic philosophy or American philosophy, which were Professor Kerr-Lawson’s research areas.  I was very pleased to assist Kate Kerr-Lawson in presenting this prize to Eric Bendall, for his paper “Bangu’s Quasi-Empirical Strategy and Mathematical Naturalism.”

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Kate Kerr-Lawson presenting the Kerr-Lawson prize to Eric Bendall

Our awards ceremony was another opportunity to celebrate Paul Thagard’s winning the prestigious Killam Prize.  Associate Vice-President, External Research Bruce Muirhead joined us to help honor Paul:

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Bruce Muirhead and Paul Thagard

We were also very pleased to celebrate some graduate student degrees and honors.  Four students earned MA degrees over the past academic year; here they are with their thesis titles:

Christine Heffernan, “Everything is going to be Okay, Right?  Kindness, Compassion, and the Moral Responsibility of Self-Deception.”
Ryan Huckle, “Knowledge, First Aid and the Moral Requirements of Rescue.”
Jim Tigwell, three papers in lieu of a thesis, including “The Lions and the Little Bird: Authenticity in Social Media.”
Jessey Wright, “Quantum Field Theory:  Motivating the Axiom of Microcausality”

To cap it all off we were thrilled to honor our two most recent PhD’s both receiving SSHRC post-docs!  Eric Hochstein will spend his at Washington University, and Rachel McKinnon will spend hers at the University of Calgary.

We are grateful to Christie Digital for its generous support of this event, and to Vicki Brett, Debbie Dietrich, and Shannon Dea for organizing and planning.  Thanks to Vicki and to graduate student Ben Nelson for taking great photographs.  And thanks to all the department members who make these events possible.  Congratulations again to all the prize winners and nominees!

Some other news from last week comes to us from Nick Ray, who attended an intensive UW “teaching academy.”  Nick says, “I was very fortunate to attend the Teaching Excellence Academy, which ran from Wednesday April 17 to Monday April 22. The Academy is an intensive workshop that brings faculty together from around the university to discuss strategies for course development and design. There were 13 participants from across all 6 Faculties, as well as a host of facilitators from the Centre for Teaching Excellence, the Centre for Extended Learning, and former partipants of the TEA–one of which was our very own Chair, Dave DeVidi! He was kind enough to share with the participants his experiences from last year’s TEA, as was Wayne Loucks (Engineering). It was nice for us rookies to have some veterans from which to learn the ins and outs of the Academy.

The goal of the Academy is to apply conceptualization tools and principles of alignment in the process of re-designing a course syllabus. I was trying to improve my syllabus for 250B, Great Works: Modern. I quickly realized that my standard tools of assessment (mainly essay writing) were out of step with what I wanted the students to learn, both about Modern Philosophy, and the sorts of skills I wanted them to take away from the course. I also learned that the description of the course I had on offer, as well as the objectives I wanted to strive for, were a bit unclear for students. The Academy really got me thinking about how a student reads a course syllabus.

We also spent a great deal of time discussing strategies relative to student learning abilities, and the relevance of contextual factors that impact our teaching, including empirical research that shows how students in first and second year differ from students in third and fourth year as regards attitudes to knowledge, and how a university course, the professor, and fellow students can facilitate knowledge generation (as opposed to mere information transference). Generational differences in student learning were also addressed, as were strategies for how to utilize online resources (especially LEARN) in effective teaching.

Details aside, the Academy was a wonderful opportunity to think about course design for a number of days, and to share in the collective wisdom of the group. Each of us has a unique pedagogy, and it was fantastic to see how others handled those tricky situations that seem to accompany university teaching, regardless of the specific content of the course.I hope to be able to attend the Academy again, or other similar workshops. It really was a fantastic, informative, and transformational experience.”  Thanks, Nick, for passing that along.

I’ll end with one programming note from myself:  between now and September I expect there will be less news, so I will post every two or three weeks instead of every week. You can follow this blog by email using the wordpress gadget on the right hand side.  I always post these in our Facebook alumni and friends group, and soon I’ll also set up a department Facebook page — liking that page will also be a way to see updates.

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Hope everyone is well!

— Patricia Marino

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Wednesday April 17, 2013

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Another great campus photo by Vicki Brett.

Hi everyone, first we have a bit of sad news about a former member of our Department, J. Sayer Minas.  Professor Minas died recently at the age of 87; he  was a professor in the early days of the Department, and later served as Dean of Arts. You can read more about Professor Minas’s research interests and life at UW in today’s Bulletin.

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Ben Nelson, looking philosophical.

In graduate student news, Ben Nelson tells us he’s had a paper accepted for presentation at the World Philosophy Congress this summer in Greece, on “A Non-Standard View of Intuitions.”  Congratulations, Ben — sounds like it will be fun!

I have some news myself this week:  I just got back from presenting the keynote address at Northwestern’s annual graduate student conference Queertopia! 6.0.  The conference is interdisciplinary, and this year’s theme was “Philosophical Investigations into Sexuality.”  There were some great papers by students on topics like the nature and possibility of consent, Wittgensteinian theories of sexual identity, and depictions of queerness in the media.  In my talk, titled “Objectify Me:  Sexual Autonomy and the Utopia of Non-Conformity,” I discussed the possibility of positive sexual objectification, and connected sexual autonomy with the kinds of options a person has to choose from.  There are differences between the stripping and flaunting of a gay pride and the stripping and flaunting of Girls Gone Wild, and in part my talk aimed to analyze some of these.

Did you know Paul Thagard has a blog at Psychology Today’s website?  Paul’s most recent blog post, “What are Values,” touches on some themes raised by a conference he attended recently with UW people Carla Fehr, Heather Douglas, and Katie Plaisance.

Shannon Dea writes to share some news about Tim Kenyon’s presentation to the Faculty of Arts’ weekly “Pedagogy Picnics” series Tuesday.  Shannon says, “Tim talked about some cool teaching methods he used in his recent course on Testimony. For the course, he assigned some of his own work in progress as readings. Early in the term, he received a “revise and resubmit” on one of the articles they’d already read, an article about which the students hadn’t been very critical the first time out. So, he shared the referees’ reports with his class and they spent two weeks working through the reports, taking note of the main scholarly lessons to be gleaned from them — things like the merits of interpetive charity. For the rest of the course, the students’ critiques were more robust and more mature than before they’d examined the reports, and, on course evaluation forms at the end of term, many students listed the time with the referees’ reports as among their favourite parts of the course. While many of us would balk at sharing referees’ comments on our work, this approach was a great way to
expose students to important scholarly skills and some of what happens
“behind the curtain” of academe.”

Carla Fehr also shares some end-of-term thoughts about teaching:  I just finished teaching my first seminar class at Waterloo.  The topic was the social epistemology of science we focused on the work of Helen Longino and Miriam Solomon.  I had a really good time teaching the class.  I learned to look forward to going to class everyday because I could count on the students to share really thoughtful and interesting ideas.”

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Shannon Dea

Shannon Dea also says to tell everyone that tomorrow (April 18), the Department will hold its fourth annual student awards reception.  “We’ll be awarding class and essay prizes, celebrating recent grads, congratulating Professor Paul Thagard on his Killam Prize and posthumously naming a new “Friend of the Deprtment,” Dr. Brian Rudrick, who was delighted to learn he’d been selected as our newest Friend before his sudden death a couple of weeks ago. We’ll also be welcoming back our first two Friends, Bob Ewen and Gerry Remers. Do you have a connection with the Department? Join us for the celebration Thursday at 3:30 in HH 373.” We’ll share the details about the event and about the prize winners in next week’s blog post.

Thanks so much to Shannon and to our Department undergraduate coordinator Vicki Brett, for organizing tomorrow’s event!

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Have a great week,

— Patricia Marino

Wednesday April 10, 2013

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CAUTION! NESTING GEESE MAY ATTACK!
Please use alternate route.

Hi everyone,

Big news this week:  our own Paul Thagard is the winner of one of this year’s extremely prestigious Killam Prizes!  Congratulations, Paul!

The Killam Prizes, awarded by The Canada Council for the Arts, are Canada’s leading prizes for career achievement in the fields of health sciences, social sciences, engineering, natural sciences and humanities, and are awarded for lifetime achievement in research.  Paul was awarded the humanities prize; it comes with $100,000 in prize money, which Paul says he plans to spend on further research.

Check out the press release.  The University has a nice article too, describing some of Paul’s research using computer models to develop new models of human emotion and consciousness.  Paul also talks about how he sees the relationship between science and the humanities, and the importance of bridging any divides between them.

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Paul Thagard with one of his most recent books.

Paul says, “Aside from the money, I get to go to Ottawa April 23 to get the prize from the Governor General (David Johnston!) at his residence, Rideau Hall, and my sons will attend.  And I’ll give a Killam Lecture at one of the 5 Killam universities (Dalhousie, McGill, UBC, Calgary, Alberta).”  Very nice!

In other news, Heather Douglas passes along some research updates:  “I went to the University of Alberta this week to talk with Ingo Brigandt’s Values and Science students and to give a talk, Mapping the Moral Terrain of Science, to the Philosophy Department.  The trip was sponsored by the Situating Science SSHRC cluster grant.   I also had an essay published in the Scientist on the sorry state of affairs in Canadian Science Policy.”

And Shannon Dea says there was a bit of excitement in the department Friday as a crew from Q Media Solutions spent a few hours here filming footage for an upcoming Council of Ontario Universities video on accessible instruction for students with mental illness.  Shannon says that in addition to filming a one-on-one interview with her, “they also recorded lots of additional footage of faculty and students interacting with each other, and of the nooks and crannies of Hagey Hall. The resulting video will not only help to support accessible instruction across the province; it will also enhance the Department’s already strong reputation for collegiality, inclusiveness and teaching quality.”

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

— Patricia Marino

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hi everyone, it’s the last Wednesday of term and hopefully the last day of wintry weather.

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Eric Hochstein, future SSHRC post-doc!

First, our warmest congratulations to recent alum and current instructor Eric Hochstein, who won a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship!  Its value is $38,000/year for 2 years, and it’ll run from January 2014 to December 2016.  Eric says, “I’ll be working with Carl Craver (who specializes in philosophy of neuroscience), as part of the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at Washington University in St. Louis (which, incidentally, is where Chris Eliasmith got his PhD!).”  Great work, Eric.

Faculty members Heather Douglas, Carla Fehr, Katie Plaisance, and Paul Thagard attended the Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science workshop at Penn State.  Heather says that “it was an intense and productive two days, and lots of promising collaborations with colleagues at Penn State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame were begun!”

Tim Keynon and I (Patricia Marino) just got back from the Pacific APA, where Tim commented on a paper and I co-hosted two sessions for the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love — which I and Prof. Helga Varden (UIUC) are co-Presidents of.

Tim “commented on a great paper by Shari Clough on feminist formal logic pedagogy.”  I was there and took this great photo of Shari and Tim after their session:

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Shari Clough and Tim Kenyon

The Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love featured two panels:  one invited session on pornography and another including a few papers submitted to us via an open call.

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Rachel McKinnon

As part of that latter session Rachel McKinnon, very recently part of our Department and now about to take up her SSHRC post-doc at Calgary, presented a paper on “Stereotype Threat for Trans Women.”  Thanks for the great paper, Rachel!

Finally, here are some recent faculty writings and publications:

Heather Douglas published an essay on science and the boundary between public and private at Science Progress.  In it, Heather says, she “uses Dewey to elucidate why political conservatives are often more hostile to science than liberals.”

Tim Kenyon’s “Noninferentialism and Testimonial Belief Fixation,” has just appeared in Episteme 10.1: 73-85.

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Have a great week,

— Patricia Marino