Monthly Archives: July 2015

July 09, 2015

To start things off, congratulations to all of our philosophy students who graduated this past June! We thank you for all your hard work and wish you the best of luck in the future.

Also, congratulations to both John Turri and Mathieu Doucet for receiving tenure on July 1st.

Jay Michaud and Ashley Keefner recently traveled to Nottingham, England for the 6th Experimental Philosophy UK Group conference, “Joining Forces of Philosophy and the Empirical Sciences to Tackle Social Injustices.” They presented their experimental philosophy work on the Mr. Big technique, which is a controversial interrogation tactic used by the RCMP. This research tests people’s judgments about the coerciveness of confessions elicited using the Mr. Big technique. Jay and Ashley write: “The conference was well attended and Waterloo’s Philosophical Science Lab was well recognized. We received some positive feedback and were happy to be able to attend!”

Jay & AshleyAbove: Ashley Keefner (left) and Jay Michaud (right).

Shannon Dea spent June teaching Philosophy and serving as academic director for a study-abroad program at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China. While there, she gave a colloquium talk, “Micro-inequities in the Classroom: A Case for Universal Design.”

deazhujiajiaoAbove: Shannon is enjoying a canal boat ride in Zhujiajiao, a Chinese water town not far from Shanghai. Also pictured are Dr. Michael Young, a sociologist (and former philosophy major) from UT Austin, and Dr. Dean Simpson, a comparative literature scholar (and former philosophy major) from Tufts.

On June 6, the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy at Waterloo Team (Vanessa Schweizer, Teresa Branch-Smith, Andrea Minano, Sarah Brown, and Heather Douglas) hosted a day-long citizen deliberation and consultation on climate and energy policy, in coordination with the international World Wide Views project.

WWV Poster

On this day, all around the world, 10,000 people in 79 different countries discussed the issue of climate change and how to address it. Waterloo hosted over 100 randomly sampled and demographically representative citizens, who thoughtfully and respectfully discussed the issues and then voted (with confidential ballots) on what should be done. The results were striking, with overwhelming majorities voting to take climate change seriously and to act strongly.

Detailed results, in comparison with the rest of the world, can be found here: A discussion of the results is here:

Heather gave the opening talk and facilitated one of the tables during the day. It was impressive the care and depth with which the citizens considered the issues.

In addition, Heather was interviewed by the CBC on science and morality in conjunction with the Stratford Festival’s upcoming production of The Physicists.

The website for the research cluster Heather has been convening for the past year went live in June. It is the Science & Health Policy Research Cluster (SHPRC)– affectionately known as “shipwreck,” because when dealing with science policy, you salvage what you can. If you are interested in science & health policy issues and would like to be on the mailing list, just let Heather know.

Finally, the Department of Philosophy was fortunate to have the chance to host the Faculty of Arts Honorary Doctorate recipient for the spring convocation. Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of 20 books, several of them best sellers, and is renowned as an influential scholar (especially of the history of women’s health and medicine), investigative journalist (best known for Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, which reports on a year she spent incognito, having eschewed the advantages of her comfortable middle class life to live in the conditions prevailing for working class women in America at the turn of the 21st Century), and public intellectual.

Given the wide range of interesting work Ehrenreich has done, instead of a talk the Department hosted a fairly informal event at which people could ask Ehrenreich questions about any aspect of her work so the audience could have a chance to hear her thoughts about a wide range of issues. The event drew a substantial crowd, and the discussion covered many topics, including: the sad state of American (and more generally North American) politics; the misuse and harm of ill-considered “wellness and prevention” strategies in health care, something Ehrenreich’s will investigate in a forthcoming book; trends in feminism and gender studies; the ways in which conditions have become even worse for the “working poor” since Nickel and Dimed was published; and much more.

Ehrenreich’s convocation address was a hit: funny, somewhat irreverent, and (as required) inspiring. Several staff and faculty members made a point of commenting to me that it was the best one they’d ever seen in their years of attending convocation. In it Ehrenreich gave the students two “final assignments”: first, reduce the amount of suffering in the world (“Always take the side of the underdog”); secondly, increase the amount of joy (“subvert solemnity!”). “Just to summarize: Never drive when you can walk. Never walk when you can march—preferably for peace and justice. And never march when you can dance.”

150610-UW-SpringConvication-Ceremony4-166Above: Ehrenreich’s address at convocation

Above: DeVidi and Ehrenreich at convocation ceremony

Above: DeVidi and Ehrenreich in academic process to convocation