Wednesday June 5, 2013

9780199794546Hi everyone, Here’s some exciting news :  Chris Eliasmith’s new book came out last week: How to Build a Brain: A Neural Architecture for Biological Cognition (Oxford University Press, 2013).  Congrats, Chris!

Chris also says, “I’m hosting a TV show on the Discovery channel that we’re shooting right now.  I’m one of 5 scientists hosting Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World.  It’s 6 one hour episodes and we each host a short 5-8min piece per show.  It’s being paid for by Discovery Canada, Discovery Science US and National Geographic International.  It’s still in the early production phase, but here’s a bit of info online.”

Heather Douglas says she’s been having a busy month in the EU, meeting with colleagues, writing, traveling, and giving talks.  “I have given three talks altogether:  May 17 at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, May 23 at the University of Vienna in Vienna, and May 28 at the Universität Bielefeld.  At each place, I talked about ‘Science, Values and Democracy,’ a talk which was much improved by earlier presentations both at York University and at U Waterloo.  Great questions and comments were given at all three venues!”

Carla Fehr just got back from The Diversity in Philosophy Conference in Dayton Ohio, a conference she organized conference with Peggy DesAutels and Sally Haslanger.  Carla says, “we had 153 people register from across Canada, the US and the UK.  We looked closely at how to improve the climate in philosophy for women, people of colour, LGBTQQ people, disabled people and other members of underrepresented groups.  There was lots of UW Phil participation at this conference. In fact I think we did ourselves proud. Shannon Dea gave a paper, ‘Micro-Inequities in the Philosophy Class: A Case for Universal Design;’ recent PhD alum Rachel McKinnon gave a paper, ‘Stereotype Threat for Trans* Women;’ and Tim Kenyon was part of a Department Chairs’ Roundtable and was on a panel, ‘Pockets of Progress.’

Carla adds that she, Sally, and Peggy are also developing and implementing a Site Visit Program: “Philosophy departments can request a team of visitors to visit their department to assess the climate for women in the department, and offer suggestions and support for making changes that improve that climate. On the day after the conference, hosted a one day intensive training workshop for potential site visitors.” Here is a link to some information about the workshop.

Image 4

Vicki captures a campus squirrel.

Nick Ray says, “I attended the 9th International Symposium on Logic, Cognition, and Communication in Riga, Latvia (May 16-18) . The topic of this years conference was Perception and Concepts, and was organized by Jesse Prinz and Edouard Machery, and included plenary sessions from Andy Clark, Ruth Millikan, David Chalmers, Kathleen Akins, and Fiona Macpherson, to name but a few of the 10 invited speakers. Much of the conference was taken up with discussions on the perception/cognition boundary.  My contribution, entitled “The Empirical Analysis of Perceptual Judgments: ‘Views’, Concepts, and Experience”, was on two ways of solving the Myth of the Given–one empiricist, and one Kantian. It stood out as a piece on epistemology and logic in a sea of cognitive science, but I was still welcomed with open arms!”

Vicki finds the most beautiful parts of the UW campus.

Vicki finds the most beautiful parts of the UW campus.

Finally, I solicited an alumni update from Eric Martin, who completed his undergraduate degree in philosophy at UW a few years ago.  Eric says,

“Is there a philosophy of electricity? If so, I should update my calling card to read ‘Applied Electrical Philosopher’. Or even better, I like the connotation arising from ‘Electric Philosopher.’ I’m having a wonderful summer working at the Mowat Centre downtown Toronto. The Mowat Centre is an independent, non-partisan think tank that is affiliated with, and situated quite close to, the University of Toronto. The Centre’s best-kept secret is a team of about twenty passionate, over-educated, and dedicated thinkers and writers who produce a steady stream of substantive analytical reports on timely topics – among them senate reform, cultural policy, and employment insurance, to name just a few. The Centre’s worst-kept secret is the Beer Store on the ground floor of the building.

It’s humbling to be a 30-year old intern, but the work here has proved quite stimulating. My four-person team is in the midst of interviewing and researching aggressively to publish a report while the narrow policy window for input is still open. The goal of our forthcoming report is to provide decision makers with recommendations on how to structure Ontario’s electricity planning processes in a way that will garner greater social license from local communities. Our recommendations come directly from our empirical research and our own analysis of fundamental principles. In interviewing energy policy practitioners, I’ve discovered that many of these professionals have a deep awareness of the (political) philosophical underpinnings of the roles they play in society. Meanwhile, back at the office, I draw daily on my training in philosophy to drive our debates about principles (and the recommendations stemming from them) towards greater clarity and coherence.

To students at Waterloo who are interested in ‘applied’ philosophy, I would recommend learning more about the opportunities available at think tanks. The work is stimulating and employees can often see the direct impact of their work on policies that affect many. Several of my colleagues here have backgrounds in philosophy. If you’re interested, I’m happy to tell you more. You can reach me this summer at my work email or at my U of T email when I begin my final year of my Masters program in the fall. Cheers!”

If you’re a UW Philosophy Department alum, grad or undergrad, and you have an update we could feature here, please send it to me!

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

Enjoy the springtime,

— Patricia Marino

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