Wednesday October 30, 2013

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Thanks to Vicki Brett for this wonderfully autumnal photo of a crow in a tree on campus.

Hi everyone, as Vicki’s picture attests, we are in full autumn-mode here in the Waterloo area. It’s incredible that there are only four more weeks of classes!

First up in graduate student news, Jim Jordan writes, “I presented a paper called “Closing a Route to Logical Pluralism” at the 50th Western Canadian Philosophical Association conference held from October 18th to 20th in Winnipeg. My paper looks at Gillian Russell’s presentation of two arguments that appear to be valid or invalid depending on whether their premises and conclusions are understood as natural language sentences or formalizable propositions. She suggests that this might be a route to some kind of logical pluralism; I argue that the difference is already made before the logical judgement of validity comes into play. This isn’t enough to settle the question of logical pluralism–we need to figure out what we want and are willing to accept as “logical” before we can answer the question of a plurality of logics.

Incidentally, in the conversation after one of the sessions, I found out that professor emeritus Rolf George and alumnus Paul Rusnock have finished translating over 3000 pages Bolzano’s writings into English. (Rolf, if you’re reading this, can you tell me where can I get a copy, and will you autograph it?)  The conference was also an opportunity to talk a bit about the two positions we have open here, meet a couple of people from Calgary where I got my start into philosophy, and make a few other introductions. There are a few other informal reflections on the conference over on the department friends’ Facebook group.” Very nice work, Jim!

Graduate student Cathy Gee has also been traveling. Cathy says, “I went to the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics conference on “Reason, Reasons, and Reasoning” in Flint, MI. I had an amazing time full of great people, great papers, and great food!” I’ll add that Cathy presented a new version of a paper she wrote for a seminar she took with me a couple of years ago! Great news, Cathy.

Graduate student Rosalind Abdool recently co-presented with colleagues at both Providence Health Care and St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto for the Centre for Clinical Ethics’ monthly Ethics Grand Rounds. The topic was on the ethics of a mandatory flu vaccination and the presentation explored commonly held philosophical reasons against and reasons in favor of a mandatory flu shot. The presentation also aimed at encouraging deeper reflection on the value of getting the flu shot in light of scientific evidence. Rosalind remarks: “Staff were highly engaged in this topic and appreciated an in-depth analysis of the ethics of a mandatory flu shot. There continues to be much debate surrounding this issue, and this was a wonderful opportunity to provide an overview of the arguments on both sides and to facilitate a fascinating discussion.” Very nice job, Rosalind!

Over at his blog at Psychology Today, Paul Thagard wrote a parody of the extended mind hypothesis. “The extended mind hypothesis claims that it is a mistake to identify thinking with brain processes. Analogously, we argue that breathing should not be identified with lung processes…” check it out here!

Shannon Dea writes, “I’m really fortunate that my sabbatical year at the University of Sheffield coincides with the first year of a three year Leverhulme Trust funded project on Idealism and Pragmatism (http://idealismandpragmatism.org/) headed by Bob Stern and Chris Hookway. They’ve both been really supportive of my research and have welcomed me to all of the Idealism and Pragmatism activities. We’ve had a great reading group, and a visiting post-doc, and we’ve got a new blog and a Twitter feed (I even got to invent the hashtag for the first workshop in the project). And, this past weekend saw the first of three international workshops Bob and Chris are hosting under the umbrella of the project. The workshop focused on historical connections between idealism and pragmatism — an oddball topic for many scholars but one squarely at the centre of my research. I was one of seven speakers at the workshop — the only one from Canada. My talk was entitled “Peirce, Spinoza and Absolute Idealism.” The other talks variously considered aspects of Kant’s, Hegel’s, James’s and Brandom’s (inter alia) thought. The talks were all well-attended and the discussions were both lively and productive.In a couple of days, I head to Sao Paulo to give a keynote address at the 15th International Meeting on Pragmatism hosted by the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo under the umbrella of the Centre For Pragmatism Studies. It’s a huge treat to get to share my research with so many pragmatists and historians of philosophy! (And it’s a great help to get to do so now whilst writing my monograph Peirce and Spinoza.)”

Heather Douglas has lots of different kinds of news. Heather says, “First, Alan Richardson came for a great visit! He met with lots of graduate students, including my PHIL 674 seminar students (who are reading some of Alan’s work), as well as faculty. His talk was very well attended– standing room only– and presented an interesting picture of what drove concerns over objectivity (and against what kind of subjectivity the objectivity was to defend) among the logical empiricists. His talk emphasized the role of the will in establishing a responsible epistemic attitude and the need for conventions in knowledge creation for which the epistemic subject must be responsible. Thanks to Alan for visiting!”

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Alan Richardson at Heather’s house, after his talk.

Heather also says, “I had a very interesting trip to Ottawa this past week, which involved both a day-long meeting on the continuation of the Situating Science cluster grant, which has fostered efforts in Canadian science studies for the past seven year. (For more info on that project, see: http://www.situsci.ca) Then, the Science and Society 2013 conference began, where I spoke on “Science, Expertise, and Democracy.” I described both how science is valuable to democratic societies and how the public can legitimately critique specific scientific studies, either because of concerns over how a study was framed (which questions did it ask? Which did it not?) and over whether the assessment of evidential sufficiency is acceptable. My session included talks by Frederic Bouchard (Universite de Montreal) and Patrick Feng (University of Calgary), which I later tried to amalgamate into a summary given at the lunch plenary (with our own Carla Fehr). The meeting was a wide-ranging interdisciplinary effort to grapple with the complex issues of science and society, and lots of good connections were made. There was also a stunning reading of excerpts from Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen.

“Also, a paper on “The Moral Terrain of Science” has been published online in Erkenntnis. The paper describes how to think about all the moral considerations that arise in the practice of science, and considers the case of H5N1 as an illustrative example. The paper is part of a collection of papers on socially engaged philosophy of science arising from an October 2012 conference organized by Angela Potochnik at the University of Cincinnati. The entire collection can be viewed here.

“Finally, late last week, I spoke at the Canadian Association for American Studies Conference in Kitchener on the problem of loyalty among science advisors in the Nixon administration. This is the story of how Nixon disbanded his presidential science advising system and how Congress passed the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires science advising bodies and their conclusions be a matter of public record. Although the US political system is quite different than the Canadian, there are important lessons concerning the need for openness with technical advice in a democracy for both countries.”

I (Patricia Marino) also spoke at the Canadian Association for American Studies Conference. Their theme was the “Economization of Everything,” and I wrote about the way economic methodology, because it collapses the distinction between wanting and valuing, is ill-suited for public reasoning processes. It’s become common to hear that the methods of economics, because they are “cold-blooded,” are superior to those of “warm-hearted” humanism; my talk, “The Cold-Blooded Economist is a Dangerous Figure,” drew on philosophical theories about valuing and liberal neutrality to argue that this is not so.

Maybe you remember that several of our MA students, Teresa Branch, Sandie DeVries, Marian Davies, and Jamie Sewell presented a poster at the 2013 Science and Society Conference in Ottawa? It was on “Scientific information, misinformation and disinformation: The perils of open access and trust,” and I’m so glad they’ve given me permission to post it here. Download the pdf by clicking: SituatingSciencePoster-UOttawa2013. Great job, all!

Recent faculty publications:

Terrence C. Stewart & Chris Eliasmith (2013). Realistic Neurons Can Compute the Operations Needed by Quantum Probability Theory and Other Vector Symbolic Architectures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (3):307 – 308.

Upcoming items:

Chris Eliasmith will be a panel participant at this event on What Matters Now, in Hamilton November 4.

And graduate student Ramesh Prasad will be chairing a session at the upcoming International Philosophy of Medicine Roundtable in New York, NY on November 20, 2013.

Don’t forget you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website. Also, follow us on Twitter.

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

— Patricia Marino

 

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