Monthly Archives: November 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hi everyone and welcome to week 12, OMG. Vicki Brett aptly suggested her photo of the statue in front of Modern Languages would sum up how everyone feels by the end of Fall term:

ML Fountain 2

We have some exciting graduate student news. Natalie Evans had a successful defense of her thesis on November 14th. Natalie’s dissertation, “Agency and Autonomy: A New Direction for Animal Ethics,” examined the obligations we owe to animals in virtue of respecting their agency and autonomy, a departure from the more typical considerations of welfare. As her supervisor, I am so happy to say, Congratulations Natalie! Since we didn’t take pictures, I’ll put here a photo from Wikipedia of a cute dog doing the famous mirror test:

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In faculty and admin news, Tim Kenyon says, “I gave a presentation ‘Research measures and rankings’ at the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators in Fredericton on November 22.”
Our far-flung correspondent Shannon Dea, now on leave, writes to say, “On Nov. 4, I gave a plenary address on “Peirce and Spinoza’s Pragmaticist Metaphysics” in at the 15th International Meeting on Pragmatism at the Catholic Pontifical University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. (The talk was part of the book I’m working on while on sabbatical.) Here’s a photo of me at what might just be the world’s best samba bar with Argentian scholars Horacio Hector Mercau (Universidad Nacional de La Plata) and Catalina Hynes (Universidad Nacional de Tucuman):
Shannon Dea with colleagues in Sao Paulo
The conference drew participants from throughout the Americas and Europe. I’m delighted to report that by the end of the conference, my thesis that Spinoza was, for Peirce, an important early pragmatist had taken hold. The two final plenary speakers both included nods to my view in their own talks. It was great to get to exchange ideas with members of South America’s very active community of Peirce scholars, but also to spend time with my fellow plenary speakers, who are all distinguished scholars of American pragmatism. And, to my delight, some of that time involved samba dancing and drinking caipirinhas (Brazil’s distinctive cocktail).”
Heather Douglas gave a plenary keynote talk at an international conference at the University of Copenhagen on “The Special Role of Science in a Liberal Democracy.”  Heather says, “The conference was very interesting and brought together political philosophy, philosophy of science, and ethical perspectives on science, and showed the complexity of this terrain very well.  The conference website is here:  http://mcc.ku.dk/research/focus-areas/sciencedemocracy/international-conference-on-the-special-role-of-science-in-liberal-democracy/  It was great to see old friends there and to make new ones!
Finally, we asked an alum of our undergraduate program, Adam Jensen, for an update on what he’s been doing lately, and here’s his interesting story:

“Since graduating from UW’s philosophy program in 2007, I have been working at various locations of Conestoga College. I began as a part-time employee working a few hours a week, but with determination, grit, and well-timed retirements of colleagues, I am now a Professor and Program Coordinator at the Guelph campus. I work in the Preparatory Programs, a little-known area which helps students gain courses needed for admission to college programs (I mainly teach English, and we also offer math and sciences) or helps students prepare for the GED test (high school equivalency). Our programs are free for students since we receive funding from the provincial government, and our mandate is to improve our students’ short- or long-term employment prospects. As you might imagine, it can be very rewarding to help individuals improve their situation in life, often helping them move from monotonous work (or no work at all) to a satisfying new career path. The way I see it, our role will only become more significant because more and more jobs require a post-secondary education; we can help those who are not prepared for that education.

“Although I do not use philosophy directly in my work, I find the strategies and thinking skills I developed at UW invaluable to my role and hope that I am able to impart some of these to my students as well. Students will not leave our programs with knowledge of Plato or Kant, but I feel that if we can help them to improve their reading, writing, and thinking skills, we can not only aid their transition to employment or further education but also foster more engaged citizens.

“I encourage those studying philosophy to consider adult education as a future career field. After all, there are only so many philosophy professor positions out there, and it is much easier to explain subject-verb agreement and essay structure than logical positivism and incompatibilist theories of free will.

Sound great, Adam!

Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.
And thanks for reading!
— Patricia Marino
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hi everyone and welcome to week 10, when everyone’s saying “There are only two weeks left! … Wait! There are only two weeks left?”

More great wildlife photographed by Vicki Brett. Thank you Vicki, for brightening our day with these.

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, on “Scientific information, misinformation and disinformation: The perils of open access and trust”? Well guess what: their poster won second prize! Congratulations all!

Tim Kenyon gave a paper, “Research impact measures for the humanities, social sciences and creative arts,” at the World Social Sciences Forum in Montreal on Thanksgiving weekend.

One of our senior graduate students, Rosalind Abdool, co-presented with Kevin Rodrigues, clinical ethicist at Providence Health Care, at Ethics Grand Rounds at St. Michael’s Hospital last week. The topic was on the ethical implications of the Rasouli case, for which the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling in late October. The presentation was attended by numerous hospital staff, physicians, patients and community members interested in the impact of the case on questions such a informed consent, the definition of treament and futility, the decision-making autonomy of physicians and patients, as well as the “elephant in the room” of resource allocation. It was a fantastic discussion and they will be presenting at Providence Health Care, St. Joseph’s Health Centre Toronto and Hamilton later this month.

Rosalind also taught a class for the Masters of Health Science program through the Joint Centre for Bioethics – University of Toronto. The subject was on social contract theory and justice for healthcare providers. Rosalind remarks: “Teaching this class was a wonderful opportunity to discuss political philosophy and ethical theory with incredibly engaging students. It was fun being able to take interesting theories, such as utilitarianism, Kantianism, socialism and so forth and apply them to everyday clinical experiences, including mandatory flu shots, jumping wait lists, various forms of difficult behaviours from incapable patients and health equity.”

Rosalind adds, “The graduate students decided to take some time off on Saturday and go rock climbing! For many of us, it was our first time bouldering and rock climbing, but it was lots of fun and a great way to spend time together outside of the department!”

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And finally, maybe you remember that Chris Eliasmith is going to be hosting a TV show on the Discovery channel, an episode of Stephen Hawking’s Brave New World? Well that will be showing this Friday, on Discovery World, channel 245 on Rogers. Here are some pictures!

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

Thanks for reading and stay warm.

— Patricia Marino