Monthly Archives: June 2016

June 9, 2016

As spring turns to summer, our faculty and students are traveling around the globe presenting our research and announcing our most recent publications.

Congratulations to Shannon Dea whose book Beyond the Binary: Thinking about Sex and Gender has just been published! Broadview Press offers this description: “How many sexes are there? What is the relationship between sex and gender? Is gender a product of nature, or nurture, or both? In Beyond the Binary, Shannon Dea addresses these questions and others while introducing readers to evidence and theoretical perspectives from a range of cultures and disciplines, and from sources spanning three millennia.  Dea’s pluralistic and historically informed approach offers readers a timely background to current debates about sex and gender in the media, health sciences, and public policy.”  Ann Garry called Beyond the Binary “an amazing book,” and Jennifer Saul remarked, “This is a wonderfully gripping, fascinating, and illuminating book.”  Congratulations, Shannon!


Several of our faculty and students attended the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Calgary.  Jackie Feke and Carla Fehr both presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science.  Jackie gave a paper called “Ptolemy’s Astrological Rays,” in which she analyzed the physics of Ptolemy’s astrology and proposed a new interpretation of his element theory, which explains how the rays projected by the stars and planets travel though the cosmos in ancient Greek astrological theory.  Carla gave a presentation on the philosophy of biology as part of the panel on Organisms, Agency, and Evolution, a book by Prof. Denis Walsh of the University of Toronto.

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Carla Fehr presenting at a joint session of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science and the Canadian Philosophical Association, University of Calgary

At the Canadian Philosophical Association annual conference, Jim Jordan presented a paper called “Cyberwarfare and the International Laws of Armed Conflict,” which argued that one scholar’s set of problematic questions around cyberwarfare (narrowly understood as disruption of code or data) and international law are not any more problematic than they are for war conducted by other means.  Jim went on to show that, once the reaction to the novelty of cyberwarfare has settled down, the current international laws of armed conflict are adequate to provide guidance on the use of cyber means of warfare.

Also at the CPA, Dave DeVidi and Catherine Klausen presented the paper “No Mere Difference,” in which they gave an argument about the shortcomings in the way we talk about disability in philosophical and political contexts.  The talk was given to a full room, and the discussion was lively with interesting questions.  Catherine says, “What a great experience! It was my first time attending a CPA conference, and the first time I have presented at a conference other than Waterloo’s own graduate conference.  Even just attending the CPA was an excellent opportunity to hear what philosophers are working on across Canada, and it makes having the CPA in Toronto next year all the more exciting!”

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Catherine Klausen and Dave DeVidi presenting at the Canadian Philosophical Association, University of Calgary

Tim Kenyon gave the Presidential Address at the Canadian Philosophical Association meeting.  The talk was titled “Eliteness and Diversity in Philosophy.”  Tim explains, “Two things increasingly seen as linked are the extremely white and male character of Anglo/Euro/American philosophy, and the extent to which philosophy is perceived as ability-based—that is, requiring some undefined quality of brilliance or ‘the right stuff’.  I extended this connection to the workings of the PGR philosophy ranking scheme, pointing out, first, its dependence on a carefully unanalyzed notion of ‘faculty quality’, and second, the utter absurdity of the idea that the assessor evaluations are evidence-based in any responsible way.  Like brilliance, faculty quality plausibly acts as a flag under which all manner of biases travel (and evidence mostly does not).  The notions of eliteness and hierarchy constructed from such a ranking are thus apt to be built from the very ingredients that, among other effects, make philosophy unwelcoming and inaccessible to people outside the white male philosopher trope.  If we value a diverse and open discipline, we should stop participating in such rankings, and stop treating them as if they were meaningful.”

Tim’s paper “The scope of debiasing in the classroom” (with Guillaume Beaulac) appeared in Topoi, Tim delivered a commentary at the Ontario Society for Studies in Argumentation conference in Windsor, and he participated in what he recounts was a very useful and enlightening workshop at McMaster University on indigenizing the academy from a research perspective.

At the University of Waterloo, Wesley Buckwalter gave a talk to our department entitled “Epistemic Injustice in Social Cognition.”  The abstract reads, “Silencing is a practice that disrupts linguistic and communicative acts, but its psychological effects are not fully understood.  In this paper I characterize a specific pathway in which silencing creates and perpetuates injustice in social cognition.  Drawing on recent work in experimental cognitive science, I argue that silencing constitutes a distinctively epidemic harm in its ability to impact mental state representation and deprive individuals and communities of knowledge.  These findings expand our understanding of silencing and contribute to a broader theory of cyclical epistemic injustice in social epistemology.”

Paul Thagard has given numerous talks this spring at the following conferences: Rethinking the Taxonomy of Psychology at Western University, The Neuroscience of Creativity at Plymouth University, and Philosophy of Public Health at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.  He also gave presentations in Montreal, Munich, Berlin, Santiago, and Helsinki.

Patricia Marino participated in a small conference at the University of Virginia on “Consent and Coercion in the Sexual Sphere,” where she presented a paper on “Affirmative Consent and Female Desire.”  Patricia explains, “Affirmative consent policies go beyond “‘no” means no,’ and require ongoing affirmative responses from all participants.  My paper draws on recent empirical research on female sexuality to explore potential costs and tensions for women associated with adopting these policies.  For example, affirmative consent is sometimes presented in a way that suggests mutual desire is important before moving forward, but women’s desire is often ‘responsive’, emerging in connection with sexual activity already underway.  Since affirmative consent is important for protecting women from sexual assault, we should not abandon it; instead, I conclude, we should recognize consent policies as representing appropriate balancing of complex and competing considerations.  This conference was sponsored by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life and Program in Political Philosophy, Policy, and Law (PPL), and brought together philosophers and legal theorists, which resulted in excellent discussion!”

Heather Douglas gave two talks in May.  The first was “Public Reason and Value-laden Science” as part of the plenary panel session on Science, Ideology, and the Public, with Audra Wolfe and Liz Suhay at the 6th Annual Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology Conference and the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Consortium for Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering (SRPoiSE) in Dallas, TX.  Heather says, “Thanks to Matt Brown and his colleagues for putting together such a vibrant conference!”

Heather’s second talk was “The Challenge of Accountability in Expert Advice,” a keynote address for a workshop on Expertise and Democratic Accountability in Courts and Public Administration at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, Italy.  Heather relates, “This was a very interesting workshop for me because most of the participants were from political theory and legal theory backgrounds, with a few STS folks.  The interdisciplinary mix was great!”


Heather Douglas on the roof of the Norwegian Institute overlooking Rome, Italy

Lastly, we are excited to announce that our Department has a new PhD program in Applied Philosophy! “Applied Philosophy” is not a particular branch or area in philosophy, but rather a way of doing philosophy.  It involves engaging with and reflecting on real, practical situations and problems, and also requires bidirectional thinking—reflecting fruitfully both on how existing philosophical ideas and theories help us understand and solve practical problems, and also on how the details of actual cases lead us to reexamine and reformulate existing theories.  The most distinctive feature of the new program will be the Applied Research Placement, in which students spend time at a host organization (e.g., non-profit, hospital, business, government agency).  We will be accepting applications beginning in the fall and until early 2017 for admission for the 2017-2018 academic year.  For more information, see our flyer here, or contact Mary Synnott at

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