Monthly Archives: January 2017

January 19, 2017

Happy new year!

The Department of Philosophy is pleased to host Dr. Heidi Grasswick as our 2017 Humphrey Professor in Feminist Philosophy.  Heidi is an eminent feminist epistemologist and philosopher of science whose research explores the links between ethics and knowledge production, as well as how people can be responsible inquirers.  She is the George Nye and Anne Walker Boardman Professor of Mental and Moral Science at Middlebury College.  She is also an avid outdoors person and dog trainer.  Here she is with her Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Skeena, who recently retired from an impressive career as an avalanche search and rescue dog:


Heidi Grasswick, 2017 Humphrey Professor in Feminist Philosophy, with Skeena

Yesterday, Heidi gave her first lecture: “Epistemic Autonomy and Trust in a Social World of Knowing.”  Here is the abstract: “The idea of epistemic autonomy has come under scrutiny by contemporary social epistemologists, including feminist epistemologists, who understand it as too closely linked to a problematic legacy of individualism and self-sufficiency within epistemology.  I argue social epistemologists can draw on recent feminist work on relational autonomy to re-orient the meaning, the role and the value of autonomy within an epistemology that takes social forms of knowing seriously, and makes room for the important role of trust in responsible inquiry.”  Welcome to the department, Heidi!

Katy Fulfer’s most recent publication, “The Patient-Worker: A Model for Human Research Subjects and Gestational Surrogates,” is now available online.  It is co-authored with Western Ph.D. Candidate Emma Ryman and appears in Developing World Bioethics.

Shannon Dea was a keynote speaker at the Way of Inquiry conference at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.  In her address, “Deep Pluralism: Pedagogy, Diversity, and Methodology,” she traced connections between methodological pluralism and inclusive philosophy pedagogy, and she argued that diversity in philosophy must start from the ground-up.  A video of the talk is available here.

Also in December, Shannon gave a talk called “Intentional Design: Philosophical Pedagogy For Everyone” to the annual meeting of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia in Korolevu, Fiji.


Shannon Dea (on right) with her Waikato host, Prof. Cathy Legg, doing a bit of “field work” on Waiheke Island between conferences

Doreen Fraser shares news of the graduate pro-seminar (PHIL 680): “We kicked off the new term with a very fruitful discussion with Ph.D. alumnus Eric Hochstein via Skype.  We read a draft of his paper ‘When One is Never Enough: The Explanatory Limits of Individual Scientific Models,’ which connected with many of the themes that we’ve encountered in our study of explanation.”

Benjamin Nelson successfully defended his dissertation, “The Depiction of Unwritten Law,” on December 12.  He offers the following description: “The idea of unwritten law is generally treated as a spooky concept.  No more.  In my thesis, I argued that unwritten legal rules are informally publicized rules held on the threat of formal sanction by an appropriate political authority.  I argued that a law is informally disseminated just in case subjects are connected to their rulers by (what I call) an intact ‘chain of deference’ (basically, meaning that subjects who are ignorant of the law know who to defer to, if they tried).  Informed by a comparative analysis of classic texts in legal philosophy, I argued that there are many potentially different subvarieties of unwritten law that are worthy of investigation: operationalizations, implicit constitutions, secret laws, fiat rules, and justice norms.  The thesis ends by arguing that a theory of unwritten law can be useful when thinking about real world cases, and offers one such theory.”  Congratulations, Benjamin!

Paul Simard Smith, who received his Ph.D. from the department in 2014, has sent us an update.  After completing a SSHRC Postdoc working with the logic group at the University of Connecticut, Paul is excited to report that that he is taking up a one-year limited term position at the rank of Assistant Professor at the University of Windsor.  In the Winter 2017 semester, he will be teaching three courses: Reasoning Skills; Law, Punishment and Morality; and Informal Logic: Argumentation.  Paul also would like to express his gratitude to all of the faculty in the our department, but especially Dave DeVidi, Doreen Fraser, and Tim Kenyon who have written letters of reference and provided moral support and encouragement during his search for academic employment.  Congratulations on your new position, Paul!

Teresa Branch-Smith reports that her Mitacs-Globalink internship with France’s computer science and mathematics research institute, Inria, is going very well.  She says, “I am just reaching the conclusion of the interview phase of my project.  I have been having on-going discussions for about seven weeks now with the computer scientists here regarding the values embedded in their research as well as the social impact their research will have.  My next step is to synthesize all this information and hopefully turn it into a publication.”


Teresa Branch-Smith at the Porte du Peyrou in Montpellier, France

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