Monthly Archives: November 2014

Wednesday November 26, 2014


Hi everyone and welcome to the last week of Fall term! As always, it seems like just yesterday that we were gathered for the welcome party, and here we are in week 12.

First, we are thrilled to announce that two of our graduate students are SSHRC scholarship recipients! Graduate chair John Turri writes, “Ashley Keefner and Sara Weaver each won a Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in the 2013-14 competition. These are extremely competitive and prestigious awards. According to SSHRC’s statistics, in this round, only seven CGSs were awarded to PhD students here at Waterloo and only eighteen were awarded to philosophy PhD students nationally. I know that the entire Waterloo philosophy community joins me in congratulating Sara and Ashley on their amazing accomplishments.”

Sara says:
“The award came as a wonderful surprise and I feel so honored to have my work recognized like this. The scholarship will be an immense help in my studies both in terms of the travel expenses it will help cover and in terms of the extra time I may now have to invest in my research. It is also so thrilling to me to have my proposed thesis, which is a project dear to my heart, be noticed as so worthwhile. A big THANK YOU goes out to Carla Fehr who helped me articulate that proposal in my application!”

And Ashley says:
“The CGS will support my doctoral research on the abilities of animals, both human and non-human, to represent and reason about the mental states of conspecifics. I’m grateful to have won a CGS as it has allowed me to focus more directly on my research. Thanks to everyone who provided feedback on my many drafts, and special thanks to Paul Thagard for his help and guidance.”

Congratulations, both!

In other graduate student news, Ty Branch recently presented a poster at the recent Calgary Summit of Philosophers of Science. She writes “My Poster talked about the potential of near-living architecture to be used as an example of weekly emergent phenomena based on my work over the summer as a result of my MITACS internship.” Check out the abstract here, and you can see a profile of Ty’s internship on our Dept. website. Plus here’s a great picture of Ty with her poster in Calgary!


Ty also presented a paper at the Workshop on Research Agendas in the Societal Aspects of Synthetic Biology in Arizona in early November. This conference was an opportunity for “scholars and practitioners to help articulate research agendas for societal research on synthetic biology… As an emerging
technology with high stakes, uncertain outcomes, and contested definitions
and values, synthetic biology requires systematic inquiry into its ethics,
governance, and desired (or undesired) futures.” She sent along this amazing photo of a concept map produced in one of the conference sessions:


In exciting faculty news, Chris Eliasmith became one of the (80) inaugural members of the RSC College on the weekend in Quebec City. Congratulations Chris!

Doreen Fraser writes that Waterloo was well-represented at the biennial meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association (PSA) in Chicago a few weeks back. Heather Douglas presented a paper co-authored with John Turri and Wesley Buckwalter entitled “Inductive Risk and Data on Values in Science” in a symposium on Naturalism and Values in Science. The session included presentations of evidence about how scientists and the public view the role of values in science, and what implications philosophers of science should take from such evidence. Carla Fehr and Katie Plaisance contributed papers to a special session co-sponsored by The Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE) and The Association for Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies, Metaphysics, and Science Studies (FEMMSS). The session highlighted a successful example of an ongoing collaboration between the two groups which is resulting in refinements to the Toolbox project  for improving communication within interdisciplinary research teams. And I (Doreen) chaired a session of contributed papers responding to her work on axiomatic and heuristic approaches to quantum field theory and was also a member of the Program Committee. This was the largest PSA meeting in the history of the association! All of the abstracts and some of the papers are available at As usual, some of the papers will be published in two forthcoming volumes of Philosophy of Science.

On November 16, our very own Shannon Dea was appointed Director of Women’s Studies! Check out all the cool stuff that Department is doing here at their website.

In other faculty news, Shannon  Dea and Carla Fehr participated in the Tech Feminism 101 panel put on by the Women in Computer Science Undergraduate Committee November 13.

And on Nov 17,  Chris Lowry was interviewed  by 570News with respect to the recent court decision allowing a First Nations family to withdraw their child from chemotherapy and treat her cancer using traditional medicine. You can hear the interview here.

Plus, you may remember Heather Douglas was part of a Rotman panel on climate change?  The video from that event has been posted.

In a bit of teaching news, I (Patricia Marino) recently invited McMaster PhD candidate Joanna Zaslow to visit my seminar on Autonomy in Sex and Love to present on her dissertation work on submissive women in Master/slave BDSM relationships and its implications for feminist theories of autonomy. We found her presentation most interesting and had a great discussion. Thank you Joanna!

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

Thanks for reading!

– Patricia Marino

Wednesday November 5, 2014

The first Phil Soc meeting of the year!

The first Phil Soc meeting of the year!

Hi everyone and welcome to November! First, let us note with pleasure that the first undergraduate PhilSoc Social of the school year (October 9) was marked by good pizza, camaraderie, and lively conversation! PhilSoc faculty liaison Greg Andres writes, “The event was held in the Philosophy Learning Commons, and was attended by many first year students, philosophy majors, non-majors, grad students, and faculty. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this event a success.” 

We have some great grad student news this posting. On October 17, Kurt Holukoff successfully defended his dissertation Politics, Principles and Pluralism: On why Liberalism Must be Inconsistent if Correct. His supervisor Dave DeVidi writes, “In his dissertation, Kurt argues that political liberalism necessarily involves not only pluralism about how to live, but also pluralism—that is, a variety of conflicting but correct theories—about the appropriate principles for the organization of societies. He suggests that the result must be revisions to our understanding of concepts we routinely use in ways that presume consistency (such as obligation), and he develops a new approach to paraconsistent deontic logic to show the whole business is coherent (even if not consistent). An examiner described his handling of questions at the defense as ‘masterful.’ As his supervisor, I was very impressed with the breadth and boldness of the project, and find it hard to believe that I had to lobby long and hard to get Kurt to chop two further chapters from the end. Well done, Kurt!” Yes, congratulations from all of us, Kurt!

Also, graduate student Darlene Drecun  tell us, “In October I was able to present a paper at the Globality, Unequal Development, and Ethics of Duty conference jointly organized by Alternative Perspectives and Global Concerns (APGC), the School of International Development and Global Studies (EDIM) at the University of Ottawa and the Department of Philosophy and Centre on Values and Ethics (COVE) at Carleton University. There were many interesting talks presented by scholars from all over the world, and I had a great time! It was particularly interesting to hear the talks presented by professors from the philosophy department at Carleton University, Jay Drydyk and Christine Koggel, as well as the organizer of the conference, Mahmoud Masaeli from the University of Ottawa. I presented a paper called ‘Justice Duties of Health Development: Sustainable Short-Term Medical Missions.’ My paper argued that surgeons involved in short-term surgical medical missions in the developing world have a justice-based duty to develop the local health infrastructure in order to provide medical services that are not of a lower quality than would be performed in their country of origin. I argued for surgeons’ justice duties of health development using the example of short-term obstetric fistula surgery missions.” Here’s a picture from the conference with Professor Jay Drydyk and Professor Mahmoud Masaeli:


Graduate student Darlene Drecun with colleagues at the Globality, Unequal Development, and Ethics of Duty conference.

Graduate Student Ramesh Prasad writes, “I gave an invited presentation to the Nephrology Division at the London Health Sciences Centre on October 22 entitled, ‘A Moral Argument against a Regulated System of Kidney Sales.’ This was based on my PHIL420 term paper from two years ago and was very well received.”

Graduate student Cathy Gee has also been conferencing. She writes,  “I recently attended the Free Will conference put on by the Center for Cognition and Neuroethics in Flint, MI October 10 & 11th. I presented a paper titled ‘Exploring the Status of Free Will in Anorexia Nervosa’ and had a great time. The conference organizers strive to make their conferences as interdisciplinary as possible and as a result, even though there is no shortage of literature on the free will topic, the talks were still new and exciting.”

Great work everyone!

Heather Douglas writes, “I participated in a panel on Climate Change:  What is to be Done?  at Western University on Oct. 23, with Gary Brown, Radoslav Dimitrov, and Jeffrey Simpson. I talked about why climate science is politicized and what to do about it.   It was a fun and interesting discussion, far more optimistic than I would have predicted.  The end result of the discussion was that there is a lot that can be done right now, and lots of opportunities for change across a range of institutions and social governance levels.  I also gave a talk as part of UW’s Knowledge Integration’s seminar series on Oct. 3, entitled “Philosophical Analysis in an Interdisciplinary Mode.” It was great fun to talk about how philosophy, as a normative discipline doing conceptual analysis, works with empirical disciplines, and how the direction of change between philosophy and empirical disciplines goes both ways.”

Shannon Dea says, “Last month at UBC, I gave a talk, “Abortion and Post-Normal Ethics Pedagogy” as part of a Western Canadian Philosophical Association (WCPA) panel discussion on Karen Houle’s Responsibility, Complexity and Abortion. And last week, I was interviewed on 570News (a local radio station) regarding the Catholic Synod on the Family, and its recent discussions on LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic congregations.”

Matt Doucet writes, On Oct. 8th, I gave a talk at the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics on ‘Implicit Bias in Medicine’. Carla Fehr and I have been working on a project on the consequences of implicit bias among physicians, and on the problems with the strategies proposed for addressing that bias. The audience at the JCB were very interested in the issue, and had many very helpful and fascinating suggestions. A live stream of the talk is available here. Also, I’ve just returned from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I attended the Atlantic Region Philosophical Association meetings to present my work on ‘Moral Responsibility and the Limits of Self-Assessment.’ I also took the opportunity to hike, with some other philosophers, to the most easterly point in the Americas.” Wow, nice picture Matt!


Tim Kenyon’s on sabbatical! He writes, “From October 1-3 I was at Lund University, where I gave a Philosophy colloquium talk, ‘Content Dissolution,’ and a seminar talk, ‘Against Disaggregation’. The former talk points out a worry with the view that testimony is rationally acceptable unless the audience has “defeaters” (championed by Tyler Burge in a famous paper called ‘Content Preservation’). The worry is that the content and truth-value of testimony can change over time in gradual ways that don’t actually amount to a defeater.  And on November 4 I gave a talk, ‘Testimony, belief, and real people,’ to the Mind, Language and Action Group at the University of Porto. This is a talk that focuses on the large difference it makes to social epistemology if you factor in the small socio-communicative details of testimony rather than abstracting them away.” Here’s a picture  from Lund of the fall colour of ivy in southern Sweden:

CAM00199And another picture, of Porto, not far from the university, as seen from across the Rio Douro.


What a beauty spot! 

Recent Faculty Publications:

Shannon Dea, “Peirce and Spinoza’s Pragmaticist Metaphysics” has just appeared in Cognitio 15.1 (2014) 25-35 (available online at

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

Thanks for reading!

— Patricia Marino