Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Beautiful fall foliage campus photo by Vicki Brett.

Big news people: we are on Twitter.  We are @WaterlooPhilosFollow us!

 We were very pleased to usher in our colloquium series with a talk by Rob Stainton, Distinguished University Professor, University of Western Ontario. Series organizer John Turri says, “Robert talked to the department about natural language and logical form. He argued that some items have logical form that doesn’t derive from the logical form of expressions in natural language. As an added bonus, in the question and answer period, it was inadvertently revealed that Paul Grice once wrote a letter of recommendation for a member of our department, in which that department member was praised for his punctuality and unrivaled fluency in the English language. This prompted deep reflection on the richness of conversational implicature.”
Here’s an update from our colleague Shannon Dea who is on leave. Shannon says, “I have a small bit of news. On Friday, I gave a talk on “Peirce and Spinoza’s Pragmaticist Metaphysics” in the departmental seminar series at the University of Sheffield, where I’m spending my sabbatical. It’s a great department and the discussion was long and lively — a real treat.” We’re glad you’re having a nice time away, Shannon!
Heather Douglas says the video of the talk she gave at SUNY-Oswego on the role of science in a democratic society is up. You can check it out here or at theyoutube link.

Another lovely campus photo by Vicki Brett.

That’s all for past and recent news. We have a few interesting upcoming events.

Heather Douglas and I will both be participating at the upcoming Canadian Association for American Studies conference here in Kitchener-Waterloo. The conference them is “Total Money Makeover”$: Culture and the Economization of Everything.” My talk is “The Cold-Blooded Economist is a Dangerous Figure”; the talk will touch on the way rational choice theory elides the distinctions we draw i in the way we regard our preferences. Heather will be speaking on “Science Advisors and the Problem of Loyalty during the Nixon Administration.”

Heather is also presenting next week at the Science and Society Conference at the University of Ottawa.

Nick Ray says, “I am giving a talk as part of the PHYS 10 Colloquium. “Mach, Newton, Empiricism and Spacetime”: Here’s the abstract: “There is a received view of Ernst Mach’s contributions to physics, and it is a tale of two cities. In the first city, the City of Theory, Mach was cited as one of the main intellectual influences for Einstein’s discovery of both special and general relativity. In the second city, the City of Method, Mach has been much maligned for arguing vigorously against fairly common (and arguably necessary) modes of scientific theorizing—especially regarding the development of concepts not reducible to experience and the search for deep, Planck-like explanations of nature.I think both cities (and the received view they comprise) are on shaky foundations. I will argue that the development of special relativity would have been hampered had Einstein actually applied Machian principles of conceptual analysis, and that Mach’s significance for modern physics comes rather from his critique of classical mechanics—one that applies Newton’s own empirical standard for physical theorizing, not some “abusive”, anti-theoretical, and overly reductive notion of empirical adequacy. We have much to learn about how to argue against entire theoretical frameworks in physics if we closely examine Mach’s mature criticism of Newtonian Absolute Space.” Details: Tuesday October 22, 2013, 11:30-12:30, Physics 145.

Don’t forget you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website. And did I mention we’re on Twitter?

As always, I hope everyone is doing well, and thanks for reading!

— Patricia

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