Monthly Archives: February 2016

February 1, 2016

Happy new year! Our department celebrated December with awards and achievements, and we’ve started the new year with a series of interviews, talks, and publications.

First of all, in mid-December our department became the first humanities department to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with Mitacs, a federally funded program which, as they describe it, “builds partnerships between academia, industry, and the world – to create a more innovative Canada.”  One of Mitacs’ most important programs provides research grants, with matching funds from an “industry partner,” so that highly skilled graduate students can take those skills and apply them in practical “industrial” situations.  By partnering with the Department of Philosophy, Mitacs is showing that they are taking an expansive view of “industry” and recognizing that philosophers can contribute greatly to innovation that benefits society in a number of ways.  Teresa Branch-Smith was the first philosophy graduate student to hold a Mitacs fellowship a few years ago, and we hope to have a Ph.D. student taking part in a Mitacs fellowship in Summer 2016.

As some of you may know, the Department is very excited to be setting up a new Ph.D. program in Applied Philosophy.  The new program is expected to have several new features, but the most distinctive is the Applied Research Placement, or ARP, where students will have opportunities to do philosophy in an applied way.  The ARP is a two-term activity in which one term is spent doing research and the other involves confronting a practical problem in a placement with a host organization.

Last year, the Department received special funding to run a “pilot project” for the placements, and we’re very pleased to announce that this January the first students began their ARPs! They’ll be reading and researching between January and April, and then between May and August they’ll be carrying out projects at their host organizations.  Students are working on topics such as bioethics, disability, and organizational ethics with a range of host organizations.  We’ll keep you posted on how they’re doing as time goes by, and, of course, we anticipate making a more formal announcement as the program moves toward final approval.

Also in mid-December, the University of Waterloo Cognitive Science program held Waterloo This-Idea-Must-Die Day, in which several speakers examined concepts and theories that block progress in understanding the mind, brain, and intelligence.  A $100 prize was promised to a student who best identified two or more ideas that deserve to die together.  The responses were so great that they resulted in a tie. Xuan Choo (Computer Science & Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience) and Kyle Gerber (English Language & Literature) shared the prize.


Kyle Gerber, Paul Thagard, and Xuan Choo


The Blog of the APA featured an interview with Patricia Marino.  In it we learn Patricia’s answers to questions such as, “What are you most proud of in your professional life?” “What excites you about philosophy?” “What’s your top tip or advice for APA members reading this?”

Congratulations to Ashley Keefner, who has an article coming out in Biology & Philosophy called “Corvids infer the mental states of conspecifics.”  The article is now available to read online here.

Matt Doucet’s latest paper, “What is the role of regret in weakness of will?” has just been published in Philosophical Psychology.  The abstract reads, “This paper argues (a) that most contemporary accounts of weakness of will either implicitly or explicitly assume that regret is a typical or even necessary element of standard cases of weakness of will and (b) that this assumption is mistaken.  I draw on empirical and philosophical work on self-assessment to show that regret need not accompany typical weak-willed behavior, and that we should therefore revise the dominant account of the difference between weakness of will and (mere) changes of mind.”  You can find the paper here.

On January 23, Paul Thagard spoke at UBC-Okanagan on “Brain Mechanisms Explain Emotions and Consciousness.”

On January 6, Jackie Feke presented in the Special Sessions on The History of Mathematics at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Seattle.  Her talk, “Geometry’s Indisputability: From Hero to Hobbes,” argued that the claim to geometry’s indisputabilty, as well as the application of the geometrical style in seventeenth-century philosophical texts, has its basis in the philosophical contributions of ancient Greek mathematicians, including Hero of Alexandria and Claudius Ptolemy.

In the first week of January, Heather Douglas traveled to Arizona State University to take part in the Anticipatory Governance School as well as in a meeting of STS scholars and science museum curators to discuss ways in which we might further enrich the public’s interaction with science at science museums.  It all took place at the Saguaro Lake Ranch, which, Heather says, “because of the El Nino rains, was disturbingly green (with moss on rocks).  The meeting was great, though, and it was exciting to hear about all the creative ideas for the museum spaces.”

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Heather Douglas in the rainy desert

An entry Heather wrote for the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Science (ed. Paul Humphreys) on “Values in Science” has been published.  You can find it here or (the preprint, not behind a paywall) here.

Lastly, the Existentialism Reading Group celebrated Nathan Haydon’s birthday with a Kierkegaard cake.

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Kierkegaard cake