The past month has been a busy time for the Department of Philosophy, as a number of our faculty and graduate students have given talks across North America and even on the airwaves.
First, Paul Thagard recently gave a talk, “The Emotional Coherence of the Islamic State,” at a conference on decision making called Wagner Conference 2015: Decision-Making at Research Frontiers, held at the University of Nevada-Reno.
Tim Kenyon gave two talks at the beginning of November. On November 5th, he gave a guest lecture, “Social Cognition in Social Epistemology,” to the CRISCo research group (Le Cercle de recherche de l’Institut des sciences cognitives) at Concordia University. On November 6th and 7th, he gave the keynote lecture, “Saving the Epistemic Phenomenon,” at the Canadian Society for Epistemology’s annual conference, at Université de Montréal.
Jackie Feke organized and chaired a session for the Early Science Forum at the History of Science Society meeting in San Francisco. The session, “The Materiality of Early Science,” featured papers on medieval technologies of time, the utility of codices, and the drawings of the early Académie Royale des Sciences, by Elly Truitt (Bryn Mawr College), Anne-Laurence Caudano (University of Winnipeg), Richard Kremer (Dartmouth College), and Katherine Reinhart (University of Cambridge). The session included a commentary by Jackie’s co-chair of the Early Science Forum, Courtney Roby (Cornell University). As Jackie and Courtney continue to advocate for the presence of early science at HSS, as well as in the academy at large, they were pleased that the session drew a large, standing-room only crowd.
Dave DeVidi presented a keynote talk called “Effective Advocacy: Can we talk to each other about hard topics?” at the Annual General Meeting of People First of Ontario. Dave explains, “People First is an important mutual support group for people with intellectual disabilities that, among other things, helps its members to become self-advocates, so I felt honoured by the invitation. I had given a short talk with the same title in B.C., which happened to be attended by the President of People First of Alberta, so I asked him what he’d have liked to have heard more about. He wanted more advice about how to do advocacy well, so I spent half of Saturday’s talk on that. The second half addressed a problem that is particularly likely to arise when advocating on disability issues: the desire to have ‘safe spaces’ in groups that include a lot of people who have been teased or bullied or excluded, coupled with the fact that people well-intentioned are particularly unlikely to voice disagreement when being lobbied by someone from an oppressed group for fear of looking like a jerk, which means that our rhetoric is unlikely to be called into question. As a result, we often use lines of argument that only seem persuasive to people who already agree with us. I suggested that if we really are committed to principles like ‘nothing about me without me’, we need to have hard conversations that call into question some of what people frequently say, and I tried out some ideas about how to have these conversations constructively and un-hurtfully.”
The 100th anniversary of Einstein’s publication of General Relativity was in November. In honour of the occasion, Doreen Fraser gave public lectures on Einstein’s contributions to quantum mechanics at the London Public Library and to PhilSoc (the library talk is on Youtube) and wrote this article. Doreen also gave a public lecture on the Higgs boson to an enthusiastic audience at FemPhys, the campus club for women in physics.
Heather Douglas went to the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa. There she got to meet our new Science Minister, Kirsty Duncan, and she gave two talks—one in a symposium on evidence-based decision-making, where she argued that the public actually has substantive roles to play (the slides for the talk are available here) and another in a session on science without boundaries, where she talked about how even in international science, borders and locations can matter a great deal. Heather says, “We had a great discussion in this session, and no one used powerpoint. Overall, the conference exuded optimism about science policy in Canada going forward. Now we have to make use of the opportunity and realize the promise that is there.”
Ian MacDonald attended the WCPA conference, which was held at the University of Saskatchewan. He gave a presentation, “Controversies over Bullshit,” which took a closer look at Harry Frankfurt’s major worry about how bullshitting tends to unfit a normal habit of caring about the ideals of correctness and sincerity. Ian explains, “There’s some dispute over whether there exists such a habit to begin with. In response, I argued that a statement produced by the bullshitter likely creates a tendency for consistency (of the foolish sort that will tend to hobgoblin the BSer), which makes Frankfurt’s worry mostly appropriate.”
Shannon Dea gave two interviews on 570News:
- One about the review of federal court judge Robin Camp for his conduct in a sexual assault trial. 12 November 2015.
- One about the representation of women on the boards of Canadian corporations. 20 November 2015.
Shannon notes that we are starting to receive submissions for the April 2016 conference the department will host on Science and Values in Peirce and Dewey. Cathy Legg (Waikato University, New Zealand) and our own Heather Douglas will give plenary addresses. As well, the conference honours the memory of the late Prof. Angus Kerr-Lawson, who taught in the Department for many years.
Lastly, PhilSoc held an event “Pints with Profs,” which drew a number of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty.