November 7, 2015

The past month has been a busy and successful time for our department.

First of all, one of our Ph.D. students, Janet Michaud, won a Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship (CGS) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in the 2014-15 competition. Having won this extremely competitive and prestigious award, Janet joins a growing list of Waterloo Philosophy Ph.D. students who have won a CGS in recent years. The entire Waterloo philosophy community congratulates Janet on this exceptional accomplishment and looks forward to learning the results of her very promising research project! Janet adds, “I’m thrilled to have won a CGS award to support my Ph.D. research! The award will allow me to focus on my dissertation project on facilitating and improving two-way methods of communication between scientific communities and relevant publics. I’d like to thank all of those who helped with my many, many drafts, and a special thanks to John Turri, Katie Plaisance, and Carla Fehr for their help and support.”

Also, congratulations to Rosalind Abdool for convocating on October 24, 2015!


Patricia Marino and Rosalind Abdool at Convocation

In her capacity as co-President of the Society for the Philosophy of Sex and Love, Patricia Marino relates that she was pleased to offer her expertise to the Daily Dot for their recent article: “One tweet about Trump, Sartre, and furry bondage porn encapsulates the Internet in 2015.”

Andria Bianchi gave a presentation called “Lessons Learned from the Development and Implementation of a Clinical Ethics Committee at Surrey Place Centre” at the Health and Wellbeing in Developmental Disabilities conference at the University of Toronto on October 28, 2015.

In mid-October, Dave DeVidi attended Claiming Full Citizenship: Self-determination, Personalization and Individualized Funding, a conference hosted in downtown Vancouver by the UBC department of Interprofessional Continuing Education. It was held on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It attracted over 500 participants from at least 17 countries, including self-advocates and their family members, policy makers, service providers, representatives from dozens of community organizations, and academics from many disciplines. Dave gave two talks: a joint presentation with John Lord, a leading figure in community-based research and an expert on person-directed approaches to disability supports, called “From Grassroots to Policy Change: The Ontario experience with independent facilitation,” and a second talk called “Effective Advocacy: Can we talk to each other about hard topics?” Dave says, “Both talks led to really productive follow-up discussions with people from various countries who wanted further details and to compare notes on how the transformation of social supports for people with disabilities differed between jurisdictions. The whole conference was also a valuable chance to learn about exciting new ideas from around the world, including Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, which an official from the Australian government at the conference explicitly justified in terms of John Rawl’s difference principle. International events of this sort happen every few years. I hope that there will be a larger contingent of applied philosophers at the next one, since I think we have lots to learn from the other participants and lots to offer them in return.”

Brian Orend looks forward to returning to the Department in January after his sabbatical, part of which was spent in America, England, and France. In the meantime, his latest book has just been published. It’s a new version of Immanuel Kant’s famous essay “On Perpetual Peace.” It includes: a 35-page Introduction by Orend; a fresh translation of the essay itself by Ian Johnston; and a diverse set of appendices (ranging from Voltaire to Hegel) compiled by Orend. Michael Doyle, author of the influential “democratic peace thesis,” offers this praise on the book’s back cover: “This is an immensely valuable volume. It combines a lucid translation of ‘On Perpetual Peace’ and a wide selection of relevant background documents with an expert, insightful, original, and extensive commentary by one of the leading scholars of international ethics.”

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Homepage for On Perpetual Peace at Broadview Press

The undergraduate Philosophy Society recently hosted an event at which Doreen Fraser gave a talk on Einstein. The title of Doreen’s talk was “Einstein, God, Dice, and the Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics.” The event was well attended, and the audience was very engaged both during and after the talk.

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Poster advertising Doreen Fraser’s talk for the Philosophy Society

From October 26-30, the department hosted the first, inaugural Brian F. Rudrick Visiting Scholar in Philosophy. Brian Rudrick was a practicing physician in the Grey Bruce region of Ontario when he first took a Waterloo philosophy course by distance education in 1996. Eleven years later he completed a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, having taken pretty much every course we offered by distance education at the time. He visited the Department several times after that, sharing with our students his thoughts on how his philosophical knowledge and skills made him a better doctor. For his many contributions to the Department, we voted in 2013 to name him an official Friend of the Department. Between the time he agreed to let us honour him in this way and the date of the Department Awards Ceremony he died suddenly at the age of 53.

Brian Rudrick’s will included a generous bequest to the Department. When considering what we could do with the money that would be a suitable memorial to Brian, two thoughts held most sway: Brian clearly loved his chance to learn philosophy, so we should do something that would provide our students with an opportunity they would not otherwise have; and he clearly thought that philosophical knowledge and skills could make an important difference to the world outside the academy. We therefore have decided to use the money to fund short visits to the department by philosophers of international renown operating at the top of their games. During the visit, they will give a series of research seminars for the department, providing an exciting learning opportunity for our students; the visits will also include a public lecture to which we will try to draw a diverse audience to see the insights a philosopher can bring to an issue of broad public concern.

This year’s Brian Rudrick Visiting Scholar, Professor Jennifer Saul from the University of Sheffield, is an internationally renowned expert on both the philosophy of language and feminist philosophy. She is the author of Lying, Misleading, and What is Said: An Exploration in Philosophy of Language and in Ethics (2013), Substitution, Simple Sentences and Intuitions (2007), and Feminism: Issues & Arguments (2003), as well as many noted articles. In 2011, Professor Saul was awarded Distinguished Woman Philosopher by the Society For Women in Philosophy. She is founder and co-blogger of the well-known Feminist Philosophers blog, as well as spin-off blogs What Is It Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy, What We’re Doing About What It’s Like, and This is What a Philosopher Looks Like. She is also the co-architect of the influential Gendered Conference Campaign.

During her visit to Waterloo, Prof. Saul gave five talks. She launched her visit with a well-attended public talk, “Dogwhistles, Philosophy of Language and Political Manipulation.” She gave three Philosophy Department colloquia: “Generics Don’t Essentialise People; People Essentialise People,” “Misleading and Morality,” and “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Academia.” Finally, she gave a pedagogy talk, “The Pragmatics of Inclusivity,” under the auspices of Arts Teaching Fellow Shannon Dea. On her departure, Professor Saul described the Waterloo Philosophy Department as “a lovely, friendly, vibrant, politically engaged and pluralistic place,” and said that she had “enjoyed every minute” of her visit.

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Jennifer Saul and Shannon Dea (Photo by Ray Drainville)

Finally, we have some sad news: Anne Minas, a longtime member of the Department, died early in October at the age of 78. Anne taught at Waterloo from 1966 until 2002, after a short stint teaching at Wilfrid Laurier University. She published work in various sub-fields of philosophy, including philosophy of language and philosophy of religion, but her best-known work was in feminist philosophy. Perhaps her most important scholarly contribution was her edited collection Gender Basics: Feminist Perspectives on Women and Men (1993), which was long a standard introductory textbook in the field, and which is still widely used. She made a lasting contribution to the University of Waterloo, to the Department, and to Philosophy as a discipline with her endowment of the Humphrey Professorship in Feminist Philosophy. This professorship allows the department to bring distinguished feminist philosophers to the University of Waterloo for a term. One of the recent holders of the Professorship, Anne Garry, Professor of Philosophy, Emerita at California State University in Los Angeles, had this to say:

“I hope that people realize the kind of foresight that Anne Minas had in establishing the Humphrey Chair. It is to my knowledge the only Chair dedicated specifically to Feminist Philosophy. It directly speaks to the view that feminist philosophy is an important approach to philosophy that is worthy of support. It is interesting the degree to which the Waterloo philosophy department changed in the years since Anne established the chair. One suspects that she feared that her department would continue to be a predominantly male department with traditional philosophical interests. Instead, it has become one that has about 40% women faculty and one in which both the women and men have interests in a much broad range of philosophical and social issues including socially relevant science. I had used one of Anne’s books, Gender Basics, in an undergraduate course, so I was already familiar with some of her work, though I did not know Anne personally. When I occupied the Chair in Fall 2011 I made contact with her to have lunch and so that she might attend some of the public lectures I gave that were funded by her endowment. At first she was reluctant, but after I persevered we had two lovely lunches with good conversation. She also attended one of my lectures. It was a pleasure to get to know her briefly as well as to enjoy the fruits of her generosity.”

The Department’s obituary for Anne Minas can be found here.


A blue jay, by Vicki Brett


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