Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hi everyone,


Photo by Vicki Brett.

First, a bit of campus architectural news: did you know the space above is going to be turned into a multi-floor atrium space for students to gather? Construction starts this fall, OMG.

One big recent happening at UW was the conference Science, Technology, and Gender: Challenges and Opportunities, which was held with The Association for Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics, and Science Studies (FEMMSS) and the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy (CSWIP) on August 10 to 13, 2014.  Our very own Carla Fehr was local host!

The conference featured many local participants giving papers, including grad students Janet Michaud, “Transdisciplinary Collaboration & Critical Contextual Empiricism,” Jamie Sewell, “Commercial Surrogacy & the Capabilities Approach,” Teresa Branch-Smith, “Choose your Character: Video-­‐Games & Gender,” Sandra DeVries, “Hardwired for Prejudice? A Neuro–ethical Account of Perceptual Preference,” and Sara Weaver, “Social Harm & Fixing Bad Science: Is Good Science Enough?” Also, Katie Plaisance, Philosophy Dept. affiliate member, spoke on “Taking a Feminist Approach to the Toolbox Project,” and I (Patricia Marino) talked about “Feminist Perspectives on Rational Choice Theory & the Problem of Altruistic Preferences.”

The buzz at the conference was that there was such an astonishing array of excellent papers that whatever you attended, you’d miss a ton. Thank you, Carla! And thank you to the program committee and many other organizers and helpers!

Graduate student Ramesh Prasad writes, “I’m pleased to inform you that my presentation entitled, ‘How Creative Analogies Can Shape Medical Practice’ was very well received at Medical Grand Rounds in the Li Ka Shing Auditorium, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto on July 23. This was my PHIL680 term paper. It was attended by about 150 people and my average evaluation was 4.64/5.” Excellent, Ramesh! We’re so glad to hear about philosophy happening out in the wider world. 

Here’s some news about a Department collaborative project: “The relationship between luck and success is a perennial issue in philosophy. It is notoriously difficult to identify the criteria by which we distinguish outcomes due to luck from outcomes due to ability. This is reflected in the ethics literature on the “problem of moral luck,” and it is reflected in the epistemology literature on the “problem of epistemic luck.” A trio of Waterloo philosophers — postdoctoral researcher Wesley Buckwalter, PhD candidate Peter Blouw, and Professor John Turri — recently tackled the epistemological side of this problem using the methods of experimental cognitive science. They found that knowledge is highly sensitive to lucky events that change the explanation for why a belief is true. By contrast, they found that knowledge is insensitive to lucky events that threaten but ultimately fail to change the explanation for why a belief is true. The paper reporting their findings, “Knowledge and Luck,” was recently accepted at Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Peter presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society in Quebec City in July.

Mathieu Doucet says, “I was recently awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant for my project “Know Thyself: The Moral Significance of Self-Knowledge.” The project begins from the observation that when we act immorally, we often fail to recognize that we do so, and aims to explore the connections between moral failures and failures of self-knowledge. The ultimate aim of the project is to answer a question that is both philosophical and practical: how can we best characterize— and perhaps avoid— the moral failures that emerge from our poor self-understanding?” Congratulations Matt!

Heather Douglas, travel maven, is back from Costa Rica, where she gave two talks, one on “Science and Citizens” at the National Academy of Sciences in San Jose (or the Academia Nacional de Cienicas) and the other at the University of San Jose. For the first talk check out this article which has a link to the short video overview of the talk.  And slides can be viewed here or here. And here’s  Gabriel Macaya, president of the Academy, introducing Heather at her talk:


You may remember that Heather co-authored an editorial for the Globe&Mail on science policy issues in Canada with Tad Homer-Dixon and Lucie Edwards. Well now she also has a Radio Canada interview on Globe & Mail piece, which is available here.

Shannon Dea, who’s been on sabbatical, writes to tell us of a non-local conference with a lot of local connections:  “2014 marks a century since the death of American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. The Peirce Society and the Peirce Foundation observed the anniversary in July by holding a large, international congress in Lowell, Massachusetts. There was lots of evidence there of Waterloo Philosophy’s long-standing Peirce connection. For example, I gave an invited talk, “Towards a Peircean Metaphysics of Sex.” Other scholars who have over the years visited Waterloo to work on Peirce were also there to give talks. Two such colleagues were Aaron Massecar (King’s College, Western University) and Masato Ishida (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Both Massecar and Ishida have spent time working with the photocopies of Peirce’s nachlass that retired UW professor Don Roberts made decades ago on a long weekend at Harvard, those photocopies currently housed in three filing cabinets in our departmental learning commons. Roberts himself was one of the early lions of Peirce scholarship. The importance of his research was much discussed in both scholarly talks and casual conversations throughout the conference. Indeed, in his plenary address to the congress, Fernando Zalamea (Universidad Nacional de Colombia at Bogotá) listed Don’s The Existential Graphs of Charles Sanders Peirce, as one of the all-time greatest studies of Peirce’s logical thought. Finally, Waterloo alumnus and 2010 Waterloo Arts in Academics honoree Nathan Houser (IUPUI), gave a couple of talks, including a well-attended memorial plenary, in which latter he detailed Peirce’s life and the birth in the twentieth century of Peirce scholarship.

Here’s a picture of alum and speaker Nathan Houser with his wife at the conference. Thanks, Shannon, for passing this along!


Nathan and Aleta Houser in St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Lowell, Mass. before his memorial address to the International Peirce Centennial Congress. Photo credit: Kathleen Hull.

In June, Brian Orend was interviewed for CBC’s “Ideas” program, regarding the ethics of war and peace. In July, he delivered a speech on post-war reconstruction at the Chateau de la Bretesche in France. This chateau, complete with working drawbridge over a moat, looks like this:

castle in france

In spite of the fact that it’s a French castle, it’s actually owned by The Borchard Foundation, which is closely associated with the University of California (the host of the conference). Orend has started Sabbatical, as of July 1st, and is looking forward to a little break from administration and teaching, and to focussing on research projects on cyber-warfare, happiness, and post-war reconstruction.

In case you missed it, here’s a Windsor Star write-up about grad student Rosalind Abdool and her work as a hospital ethicist.

And I myself wrote a “guest post” at the Metaphysics of Love project blog, on “Love and the Problem of Fairness.” Check it out here!

Recent faculty publication news:

Shannon Dea says, “a paper of mine hit the ‘stands’ just in time for the International Peirce Centennial Congress. Torkild Thellefsen and Bent Sørensen, Eds. Peirce in His Own Words (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2014) included a chapter by me entitled “The River of Pragmatism.”

Brian Orend signed a contract to do a second edition of his book Introduction to International Studies (OUP), and he’s come out with two book chapters: “Post-Intervention: Permissions and Prohibitions” in D. Scheid, ed. Humanitarian Military Intervention (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 224-42.; and “Fog in The Fifth Dimension: The Ethics of Cyberwar” in L. Floridi and M. Taddeo, eds. The Ethics of Informational Warfare (Switzerland: Springer, 2014), 3-23.

Matt Doucet and John Turri recently published a paper in Synthese titled “Non-psychological weakness of will: self-control, stereotypes, and consequences.”

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

Thanks for reading!

– Patricia Marino