Wednesday June 19, 2013

OK, I took this last year, but hey - you've seen one beer tent, you've seen them all, right?

OK, I took this at Congress last year, but hey – you’ve seen one beer tent, you’ve seen them all, right?

Hi everyone, quite a bit of news today, and first some updates from what Matt Doucet describes as “Canadian philosophy’s annual summer camp”: the Canadian Philosophical Association meetings, part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

This year’s meetings were in Victoria, and were well attended by Waterloo Philosophy people. In addition to those below, graduate students Humayra Kathrada and Sara Weaver presented at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, Humayra on “The Role of Maxwell’s Ether Models,” and Sara on “Two Approaches to the Integration of Feminism with Evolutionary Theory.”

Matt says, “While at the CPA, I presented a paper entitled ‘Do we always regret weakness of will?’ In it, I argued that several contemporary models of weakness of will give regret  a central place. The idea is, roughly, that regretting your actions after the fact is a good bit of evidence that it might have been weak-willed. In my view, this is a mistake: drawing on psychological evidence on self-assessment, I argued that we very often do not regret our weakness of will. I therefore argued that the dominant models need to be reworked in order to drop the regret condition, and offered some speculation on what such reworked models might be like.”

Tim Kenyon was also at Congress, where he presented the joint paper “Critical thinking and debiasing,” with Guillaume Beaulac (Western), and also a commentary on Mike Raven’s (Victoria) paper on testimony at the CPA.  Tim also gave a talk on bibliometrics and other research impact measures as part of the Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences speaker series at the Congress.

Shannon Dea says, “I presented my paper “A Harm Reduction Approach to Abortion” in a well-attended plenary session. The plenary was a great opportunity for me. Throughout the Q+A, and indeed, the remainder of the CPA, I received really helpful questions and comments about my work. I was even name-checked the next day in Daniel Weinstock’s “Big Ideas” lecture, where he emphasized the importance of harm reduction approaches and told the audience that I’m the only other philosopher he’s heard discussing harm reduction. I also gave a talk on Spinoza’s theory of judgment, and a commentary on a paper on the ethics of parenting. In other news, I’m leaving Monday for Nanjing, where I’ll be teaching a couple of Philosophy courses at Nanjing University, as I did last year. Last year’s experience taught me a lot about accessible instruction. I’m really looking forward to reprising the experience. Anyone interested in following my adventures in China is welcome to visit my blog:

Graduate student Peter Blouw also presented a paper at the CPA  — on the role that counterfactual comparisons play in our ascriptions of mental states to other people. Peter writes, “This work was co-authored with John Turri, and it was great to get some feedback from other philosophers at the conference – I learned a lot, and I had the chance to meet a bunch of people working on similar topics, which was really helpful.”

Peter adds, “I also recently presented a poster with John at the annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology in Providence, RI. This work describes and explains empirical evidence of a surprising tendency people have to deny that instances of blameless rule-breaking are, in fact, still a form of rule-breaking. We got some good questions and suggestions from other attendees at the conference, and there were a number of excellent talks to take in over the course of the event.”


Porter Library in springtime, by Vicki Brett

In other conference news, Heather Douglas says, “June 6-7, I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop on Cognitive Attitudes and Values in Science at the University of Notre Dame, where I gave a paper called ‘Norms for Claim-Making:  Between Pure and Practical Reason.’ It was a very helpful workshop, with lots of papers referring to each other’s work– and it seemed to make things clearer by the end!”

And one of our graduate students, Rosalind Abdool, presented two of her papers at the annual Canadian Bioethics Society conference at the end of May in Banff. Her first paper stemmed from her research area under the supervision of Mathieu Doucet; she discussed three major philosophical accounts of personal identity, provided a critique and comparison of the accounts and applied this analysis to a case in mental health. The second paper was a preliminary presentation of Rosalind’s thesis work, under the supervision of Patricia Marino. She argued that two of the major traditional philosophical arguments against deception in caregiving are inadequate; she further argued that cases where patients are incapable provide unique challenges to these arguments, and that the use of deception can actually enhance autonomy and promote trust.


More amazing campus wildlife captured on film by Vicki!

Next, the Department is  pleased to announce teaching and travel awards.

Department Teaching Award: Jim Jordan

Department Teaching Assistant Award: Ashley Keefner

Jim has an excellent track record as both a teacher and a TA.  The hard work he puts into course design and preparing his lectures, together with his obvious caring for his students, resulted in very strong student evaluations in all the courses he taught this year. Ashley won very strong praise from all the faculty members she TA-ed this year. They praised the quality of the feedback she provided to students, her reliability, and her pro-active approach to getting her work done efficiently and effectively.  They are both highly deserving winners.  But, as they are every year, these were very difficult decisions.  We are proud of all our grad student TAs and teachers, and wish to thank them all for their great contribution to Departmental teaching in this regard.

Congratulations Jim and Ashley!

These special travel awards are new this year:

The Philosophy Department Congress Travel Awards are for students with refereed papers accpeted at Congress meetings. This year’s awards go to Peter Blouw and Sara Weaver, whose papers are described above.  Congratulations to Peter and Sara!

The Philosophy “Excellence in Ph.D. Studies” Travel Awards are for students who have completed their course work and PhD Research Areas are eligible for this award. This award goes to two students each year based on overall performance in the program.  The awards can be used for whatever will best advance academic prospects of the student, whether it be by sharing the results of their research at conferences, visits to summer institutes or other departments, or in some other way.

The inaugural winners of this award are Paul Simard Smith and Rosalind Abdool. Congratulations, Paul and Rosalind!

Paul is nearing the completion of his PhD, in which he develops a nuanced account of logical pluralism and investigates the ‘downstream” implications for current debates in other areas of philosophy such as epistemology and argumentation theory if logical pluralism is true.  He has published a number of articles in professional journals and peer reviewed conference proceedings. He also has several presentations at professional conferences, and won an award for the top student paper at an international informal logic conference in 2011.  He is an excellent teacher, receiving very strong evaluations from the students in his courses, and is one of the department’s best and most reliable teachers of online courses.

Rosalind has long been known as a great Departmental citizen, with first-rate grades and terrific reviews for her TA-ing. This past year, she was president of the grad student association, and passed her dissertation proposal, which will deal with the use of deception in medical ethics, for instance in giving covert medication to patients. She works and volunteers in clinical bioethics fields at various Ontario hospitals, and delivered 2 refereed papers last year, one at the World Congress for Psychiatric Nurses and the other at the Canadian Bioethics Society Conference.

We’re so pleased to be able to support our graduate students in developing and disseminating their research.  Great work, all!

Also, some faculty written work has just appeared:
Heather Douglas has two new pieces:  “The first, co-authored with PD Magnus (SUNY Albany), is in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science and presents an overview of the arguments made about the value of novel prediction, arguing for a pluralist instrumentalist view of the issue.  It is available here. The second is a book review of Kitcher’s latest book, Science in a Democratic Society, and is in the British Journal for Philosophy of Science.  It is here.”

Nick Ray says, “My paper, “Interpreting Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument” has come out in the most recent volume of Dialogue. The paper argues against the idea that Russell’s theory of denoting concepts was inconsistent, and mobilizes textual evidence in support of more subtle semantic and epistemological reasons why that theory was rejected in favour of Russell’s theory of descriptions in his famous 1905 paper, “On Denoting.”

Finally, I keep forgetting to mention, I also have a blog, which is sometimes philosophical:  The Kramer Is Now: Accidental Philosopher Encounters Modern Life.  If you want to read a recent post mocking recent trends in university instruction, you can check out Naked Accounting 101: The Course Catalog of the Future.

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

— Patricia Marino


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