Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hi everyone,

It’s end of term! To start things off, here’s a great picture graduate student Rosalind Abdool took last weekend, of some Department grad students finishing up papers, grading and working on their dissertations for the busy end of term.  Excellent : )


We’ve been doing some celebrating around here. On April 11, the department held a colloquium and reception in honour of recently retired department member Joe Novak. You can read all about Joe Novak in an earlier blog posting when we announced his retirement last August.

Dept. Chair Dave DeVidi writes, “For the colloquium, we invited one of our PhD alumni who worked closely with Joe, Paul Rusnock of the University of Ottawa. Rusnock proved an ideal choice.  His talk, “Mathesis universalis in Bohemia: Bolzano on collections” was very well adapted to the likely audience for a retirement event for someone like Joe. Joe has friends all over campus and so the audience could be predicted to include everyone from specialists on the topic to academics who are not philosophers to people from outside the academy entirely.  Rusnock was especially impressive during the question period, wearing his vast learning in the field very lightly and—something I always appreciate when I see it—demonstrating the ability to find something interesting in every question from the floor.  The timing was also good in that Rusnock’s monumental translation of Bolzano’s Theory of Science, in four volumes, has just been published by Oxford University Press. This is joint work with another emeritus member of the department, Rolf George. After the talk, there was a lively reception.  The occasion brought back many familiar faces. As usual at such events, there was much reminiscing, and everyone got a chance to chat with Joe and wish him well. Entirely appropriately for an event devoted to Joe, much chocolate was consumed. Thanks, Joe, for all you’ve done for the department.”  Yes, Joe, Thank you!!

The Department is also very pleased to announce that Greg Andres will be joining us as a permanent faculty member, at the rank of Lecturer, beginning July 1.  Chair Dave DeVidi writes, “His work will include coordinating the department’s business ethics offerings for the various “X and Business” programs on campus—which we teach to over 1000 students per year—and mentoring grad students who are just beginning their careers as teachers. Greg completed a PhD at the University of Western Ontario in the philosophy of logic, but his research interests have since moved in the direction of philosophy of economics and business ethics. He has been an extremely successful sessional teacher on campus for several years, and in 2013 was the inaugural winner of the Faculty of Arts Teaching Award.  His is currently an Instructor and the Instructional Support Developer with the Professional Development program on campus.” Welcome, Greg!

In graduate students news, Ben Nelson successfully defended his dissertation proposal and is now ABD! His title is tentatively:  On Unwritten Laws: a Treatise on the Concept of Implicit Legal Norms.” Congratulations, Ben!

Heather Douglas has been busy traveling and conferencing. She says,  “I had a 2-talk trip to St. Louis April 10 and 11. First, I gave a talk at Washington University on Scientific Integrity, where I explored the pluses and minuses of going with a narrow or a broad interpretation of the concept. The audience was a torn as I was between the two views. I also got to have great conversations with Anya Plutynski and Carl Craver, and Eric Hochstein sent a big shout out to the department here! Then on April 11 I gave a talk about Responsible Science in Democratic Societies at St. Louis University. That talk argued that while scientists have certain prima facie freedoms, those were not unlimited, and, further moral responsibilities set additional standards for their work. Kent Staley was a great host. Sadly I had to missed Joe’s party while in St. Louis.

“More recently, I spent Friday April 25 at the University of Guelph, engaged in a conversation about the relationship between psychology and STS, and what a psychological perspective could bring to science studies. The short answer was, quite a lot. Here is a picture of the group convened by Kieran O’Doherty and Jeff Yen, including people as far away as Lisa Osbeck from Western Georgia and Hank Stam from Calgary:


Shannon Dea has also been busy with talks, including three recent ones. She writes, “First was “On Harm Reduction.” This was my keynote talk as guest speaker for Bristol University’s annual student philosophy conference. It’s held every year at Cumberland Lodge, a swanky academic retreat operated by one of the Queen’s foundations. The buildings date to the 17th century, and sit on the grounds of Windsor Castle. Definitely the best linens I’ve ever slept in while attending a philosophy conference! My most British talk ever. Second was “Beyond Choice: An Ecological Approach to Abortion.” This was part of the Cardiff University Departmental Seminar. And finally, I presented “Towards a Peircean Metaphysics of Sex” to the Applying Peirce 2 Workshop, Nordic Pragmatism Network, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia and the University of Helsinki, Finland.”

More informally, Shannon also writes to tell us of a philosophical excursion. She says, “Recently I got to fulfill one of my dreams by undertaking a walking journey from, as it were, one end of 17th century philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s life to the other. I walked approximately 75 kilometres — from Spinoza’s birthplace in Amsterdam to his home in Rijnsburg (a little town near Leiden), to his later homes in Voorburg and the Hague, and finally to his grave, also in the Hague. The walking itself took about 19 hours over the course of two days, these days broken up by other days in which I visited the various Spinoza sites So, the whole pilgrimage occupied five days — two days of walking, three days of exploring Spinoza’s places. Retracing Spinoza’s biography the slow way and seeing first-hand the places he lived reconnected me to what I love so much in Spinoza’s thought — his patience, his rigour, his humility, his conviction that we are deeply connected to the natural world, and his insistence that the divine is immanent in that world, not transcendent. I expect that I’ll be doing some semi-scholarly writing about this journey in the future. For now, here’s a short blog post I wrote about my walk (, and here it is again, reblogged in Dutch (
Matt Doucet’s been traveling as well, and is currently in Amsterdam at a workshop at VU University on ‘Responsibility: The Epistemic Dimension’ that explores the question of whether ignorance is an excusing condition for moral responsibility. Matt says, “I presented a paper on ‘Moral responsibility and the limits of self-assessment’, got some excellent feedback, and took in some great talks.”
Matt also wrote to tell us about his grad seminar: “The students in my Responsibility and Punishment graduate seminar presented their papers at a day-long mini-conference on Monday, April 14th. The papers were uniformly excellent, and covered a wide range of topics, from punishing the innocent to the the ethics of slur appropriation to the cognitive science of emotional regulation.”
Finally, I have a bit of news myself. A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation to the Joint Centre for Bioethics Seminar series on “Dilemmas and Disagreement: Moral Coherence and Justification in Pluralistic Contexts.” It was wonderful discussing abstract philosophical issues with some ethics practitioners. I am also recently back from the Pacific APA, where the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love put on two sessions — you can read more about them here.
Finally, we had a wonderful awards ceremony honoring prize winners and others! Since we’re still getting the pictures developed (ha ha, just a little joke for all you non-millenials out there) we’ll tell you all about it next time.
Don’t forget, as always, you can see more news and check out upcoming events at our Department website.

Thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino


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