Monthly Archives: December 2016

December 1, 2016

We have a wealth of news this month including our department members’ talks around the world, our socially engaged philosophy close to home, and awards that recognize the excellence of our faculty and students.

First, congratulations to Heather Douglas for her election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science! The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest general scientific society, as well as the publisher of the journal Science, and it elects fellows in recognition of their contributions to innovation, education, and scientific leadership.  Heather is the only female Canadian philosopher to be named a AAAS fellow, and they honor Heather in particular “for distinguished contributions to the philosophy of science, particularly to the analysis of science policy, science in a democratic society, and values in science.”  For more on how this fellowship celebrates Heather’s work, see Waterloo Stories and the announcement by the AAAS.  Congratulations, Heather!


Heather Douglas, AAAS Fellow

Vanessa Lam received the J. Alan George Student Leadership Award, which is presented to an entering graduate student, chosen from among students within three terms of the first receipt of a Provost Doctoral Entrance Award for Women and based on a record of student leadership.  Congratulations, Vanessa!

Frédéric Bouchard of Université de Montréal visited our department last week and delivered a colloquium talk on “Rethinking the Boundaries of Human Beings and Morality.”  The abstract reads, “Based on symbiosis and other ‘exotic’ biological examples, philosophers of biology have defined biological individuality beyond our common intuitions about individual organisms.  I will explain why individual human beings should be understood as emergent multi-species individuals and how this should inform our views about morality and arguments concerning moral relativism.”

Sandra DeVries attended the Western Canadian Philosophical Association and presented a paper entitled “Challenges for African Canadian Philosophy, A response to Chike Jeffers.”

Tim Kenyon gave two presentations in Portugal.  One was a public philosophy event at Clube Filosófico do Porto, entitled “Ignorance is power.”  The other was a paper, “Critical thinking for engineers, and engineering critical thinking,” delivered at the International Conference for Engineering Education, held at UTAD, Vila Real.

Jackie Feke presented a paper called “Ptolemy’s Theory of Harmonia” at the conference On Mathemata: Commenting on Ancient Greek and Arabic Mathematical Texts at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Doreen Fraser’s course  “Quantum Mechanics for Everyone” was featured in Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s official student newspaper.


Doreen Fraser teaching “Quantum Mechanics for Everyone”

Heather Douglas, Doreen Fraser, Jay Michaud, and Katie Plaisance attended the biennial meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association in Atlanta.  Heather delivered a talk entitled “Structures for Trust: Individual and Social Levels of Analysis for Industry Collaborations” in the symposium Getting Down to Business: Problems and Solutions for Industry-Funded Research.  Doreen presented a talk entitled “The Applicability of Renormalization Group Methods from the Perspectives of Two Wilsons” in the symposium The Renormalization Group in Particle Physics: Structures, Scales, and (Anti)Realisms.  Katie and Jay conducted interviews with philosophers of science about success conditions and barriers to dissemination and collaboration with scientists.  These interviews are part of Katie’s SSHRC-funded project “Increasing the Impact of Philosophy of Science in Scientific Domains.”  (Stay tuned to this blog for a story about this project in a future edition!) Heather also acted as a mentor for the “How Do I ‘Do’ Social Engagement? Learning from Mentors” event sponsored by the Joint Caucus for Socially Engaged Philosophers and Historians of Science, where she led a discussion on solving wicked problems.  Doreen (in collaboration with Teresa and many other members of the Department) put together a poster about the Applied Philosophy Ph.D. program for the inaugural poster session that drew a lot of interest.  Doreen says, “All in all, a very busy but very enjoyable three days!” Heather served on the program committee and Doreen served on the poster committee for the meeting.

Heather Douglas organized a forum to plan for decarbonizing the energy systems of Waterloo Region by 2050.  With over 50 participants (most drawn from outside of academia), the forum made progress in defining the challenge and what we need to know to craft solutions.  Here is an image of our current energy system:


Each square represents one petajoule of energy and it is apparent that most of our energy currently is dependent on fossil fuels (when you take into account all building and transportation needs in the region).  This is a major challenge but the forum did see that there are ways to address it, including available increases in building efficiency, increased supply of renewable energy, and fuel-switching retrofits.  Heather also talked about these results with the Ministry of Energy for Ontario and at an IC3 event on Post-COP22 (in Morocco) at St. Paul’s on Monday.


Nigel Moore (from WISE) and Heather Douglas at the forum for decarbonization

Trevor Holmes contributed to the paper “Intentional Community and the Formation of SoTL Scholar Identities,” presented at the International Consortium of Educational Developers, Cape Town, South Africa.

Trevor also facilitated a local HeForShe Ideathon.  Similar to a hackathon, the HeForShe Ideathons are held on partner campuses around the world in order to generate solutions to pressing issues, including the question the University of Waterloo community addressed: “How do we create a culture of transparency and transformation on campus to end gender-based violence?” Trevor took twenty participants through a process of brainstorming, synthesizing, and converging ideas, and the top three went forward to the international network of HeForShe partners.


Trevor Holmes hosting a HeForShe Ideathon

Trevor Holmes, Katy Fulfer, Librarian Sarah Brown, and Shannon Dea were among the key organizers for the University of Waterloo’s campaign for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

The SHORE Centre in Kitchener celebrated the publication of Women Studies’ Instructor Shannon Stettner’s new edited collection Without Apology: Writings on Abortion in Canada (AU Press, 2016).  Shannon gave a talk on the book project to a standing-room-only audience.  She was introduced by Shannon Dea, a former SHORE Centre president, and the author of one of the chapters in the anthology.

Shannon Dea also moderated a well-attended panel at the Kitchener Library called “Waterloo Region, Let’s Talk. Pulse, Orlando.”  The panel featured members of the local LGBTQ and Muslim communities discussing their mutual experiences of, and lessons learned from, the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.  The organizers of the Let’s Talk panel have shared the news that an emerging support group is “exploring the possibility of starting an inclusive, LGBTQ+ affirming Muslim congregation in the area.”

Tim Kenyon and Shannon Dea appeared together Nov. 21 on the lunchtime talk show “Opposing Views” on 570 News radio.  Tim and Shannon are both regular panelists on “Opposing Views,” but Nov. 21 was their first show together.

Tim and Shannon happy.jpg

Tim Kenyon and Shannon Dea on 570 News

Want to read more? Check out our faculty members’ blogs:

Hot Thought

Feminist Philosophers

The Kramer is Now