June 9, 2017

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While it is officially spring (and spring term), it certainly feels like summer has arrived in Waterloo.  And that means Congress!  Many departmental members participated in the annual festival that is the Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, which took place this year May 27-June 2 at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Katy Fulfer organized and moderated an author-meets-critics session on Patricia Marino’s recent book, Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World, for the Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA) meeting. Commenters included Chris Kaposy, Rosalind Abdool, and Anthony Skelton.  Patricia thought that their comments and the Q and A were all excellent and really thought provoking, raising a great mix of theoretical and more practical issues.  Patricia also presented a paper on “Value Pluralism and the Law and Economics Movement.” And Katy presented “An Anti-Commodification Approach to Animal Research” (a paper co-authored with Patrick Clipsham, from Winona State University) also at the CPA.

Shannon Dea gave a series of talks at Congress, including “Spinoza and Race” (at a joint session sponsored by the Spinoza Society of Canada and the CPA), “Detached Ideas on Topics of Vital Importance” (at the Public Humanities Roundtable: “New Cultures of Scholarship: The Humanities in the Public Sphere” sponsored by the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English), and “Pragmatism From Margin to Centre” as part of a symposium on “Pragmatism in the 21st Century” (for the CPA).   She also served on an author meets critics panel with Patricia Marino for Carrie Jenkins’ book What Love is and What it Could Be.

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Left to right:  Carrie Jenkins (UBC), Shannon Dea (UW), Samantha Brennan (Western), Patricia Marino (UW), Jasper Heaton (UBC), Alice MacLachlan (York). Photo credit: Esa Diaz-Leon (Barcelona).

Sandra DeVries presented a paper entitled “The Role of Multiraciality in the Philosophy of Race” at the CPA.

Doreen Fraser gave a talk entitled “Quasi-particles as a template for ‘particles’ in QFT” in a symposium on the history and philosophy of particle physics at the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) meeting at Congress and delivered a commentary at the CPA.

Jackie Feke gave a talk on “Ptolemy’s Epistemology of Geography” also as part of CSHPS.

Also presenting talks at the CPA were Andria Bianchi, Wesley Buckwalter, Matt Doucet, Carla Fehr, Vanessa Lam, Chris Lowry, Dylon McChesney,  and Ben Nelson.

In addition to the academic frenzy of Congress, other talks were also given in other places.  For example, Katy Fulfer presented  “From the Global to the Local: Notes on Canadian Policy, Commodification, and Exploitation” at the Critical Perspectives on Surrogacy in Canada workshop held at the University of Ottawa May 17-18. This workshop brought together specialists in law, bioethics, philosophy, sociology, and policy, and provided an avenue for academics to speak with surrogates about their work. Then, Katy traveled to Montreal for the Canadian Bioethics Society (CBS) Annual Conference, where she presented “Vulnerability and Moral Responsibility in Choosing Assisted Reproduction.”

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Waterloo folks at CBS:  Andria Bianchi, Cait O’Donnell Kathryn Morrison, Katy Fulfer, and Rosalind Abdool

In late April, Heather Douglas traveled to the University of Cambridge at the behest of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.  There, she participated in a workshop on Risk and the Culture of Science, and gave a public talk on “Responsibility and Inequality in a Risky World.”  A video of the talk has been posted on CSER.  She also gave a talk in the History and Philosophy of Science Department on “The Materials for Trust-Building in Expertise.”

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Heather Douglas and Jacob Stegenga at the river Cam.

Closer to home, Shannon continued her work on pedagogy with Centre for Teaching Excellence by giving a talk at the UW Teaching and Learning Conference on “Cultivating Curiousity and Care on the Threshold” (with Carmen Bruni, Rob Gorbet, Barbara Moffatt, Gordon Stubley, Julie Timmermans, and Diane Williams).  She also worked with Trevor Holmes to design and run a two-day advanced course design workshop (“Deepening Your Course Design”) held in May.

Department members are also involved in community governance and public outreach.  Shannon Dea has been elected as a faculty representative to both the University Senate and the University Board of Governors.  Shannon was also a panelist on Opposing Views on 570 News, a weekly lunchtime current events show hosted by Mike Farwell.  (Listen here.)

Dave DeVidi was pleased to be asked to join the Advisory Committee for Career Compass KW, a two-year project funded by a Ministry of Community and Social Services Employment Modernization grant, that aims to help people with developmental disabilities in KW to find meaningful, competitive, fulfilling and productive employment in the community.

And Katy Fulfer notes that although the Women’s Studies Student Society isn’t meeting formally during the Spring term, a few members meet up to volunteer at Food Not Bombs, an organization that provides a free vegetarian and vegan meal in downtown Kitchener most Saturdays.  All are welcome to join!

In publishing news, Ted Richards has co-edited with Kevin Elliott a special section of Public Affairs Quarterly entitled “The Responsible Use of Science in Societal Decision Making.” Part one appears in this month’s issue (Vol. 31, #3). Part two will appear in the September issue.

Wesley Buckwalter and John Turri’s paper “Descartes’s Schism, Locke’s Reunion: Completing the Pragmatic Turn in Epistemology” was recently published in American Philosophical Quarterly. The paper argues that whether a person should pursue a course of action is powerfully and directly connected to knowledge.

Shannon Dea’s paper, “Deep Pluralism and Intentional Course Design: Diversity From the Ground Up,” was recently published in Rivista di estetica.

And Heather Douglas’s essay, “The Bitter Aftertaste of Technical Sweetness” has been published in new edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, edited by David Guston, Ed Finn, and Jason Scott Robert (MIT Press).  Heather’s essay draws parallels between the experience of scientists at Los Alamos in World War II and the experience of Victor Frankenstein.

Finally, it is with sadness that the department notes the passing of longtime faculty member Judy Wubnig.  Dave DeVidi and Shannon Dea have provided this rememberance of her:

Judy was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1934. She received a BA from Swarthmore in 1955, and her MA and PhD from Yale. Her 1963 dissertation was titled A Study of the Rationality in Kant’s Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. After a short stint as a Lecturer at Northeastern University, she joined the Waterloo Philosophy Department in 1965, where she worked until her retirement in 2002. She continued to work on Kant, including translating work on his philosophy of mathematics, and made occasional forays into political philosophy.

Judy was a well-known figure on the Waterloo Campus throughout her career. She was never shy about speaking up in defense of what she thought was right, and regarded herself as a staunch advocate of free speech. As the then-University President David Johnston phrased it when he conferred the designation Professor Emerita on her, she was “a conscientious discussant at Arts Faculty Council and diligent in defending the interests of faculty members across campus.”

It is as a mentor and friendly supporter of many students during her long teaching career that Judy probably made her most important contribution. She often went out of her way to make students, especially international students or students who seemed isolated, feel at home at Waterloo. One of the current faculty members in the Department, Shannon Dea, was an undergraduate student of Judy’s and her memories give a feel for a side of Judy that those who only know her by her higher-profile activities on campus might miss:

Judy was one of my first ever Philosophy professors. In the Fall of 1989, in the first term of my undergrad, I took “Great Works of Western Philosophy” with her. I loved the course and I loved her teaching. She was old-fashioned in a way that, at the time, I was looking for in a philosophy professor. She treated the canon reverently; this really resonated with me at the time. She was also fiercely supportive of her students. I recall one time I had to ask for an extension on a paper because I wasn’t doing a very good job of juggling work and school. She asked me why I had a job, in addition to being a student. I told her that my job was my only way of paying rent. This really upset her. “Oh, why can’t they just let students be students?” she complained. (She gave me the extension.)

As it happens, the job in question was at a local restaurant. I remember that Judy often used to bring undergraduate students to the restaurant and buy meals for them. She was always a really generous woman. At the end of the course I took with her, she invited the whole class to her apartment for a potluck dinner. This really meant a lot to me. It was the first time I had ever been welcomed to a professor’s home, the first time that I ever shared a meal with a professor. I and another student in the class were both vegan. Judy was far from vegan, but she managed, in her own way, to make we two vegans feel really welcome by explaining to us Plato’s reasons for excluding meat from the diet of the citizens of the Republic. Years later when I became a professor, I followed Judy’s model and held student potlucks at my house at the end of term. I wanted to make my own students feel as welcome and supported as Judy made me feel.  (I don’t host these potlucks so often any more, but I still think very fondly of the practice.)

Over the years, my views about philosophy and pedagogy and about the world in general drifted pretty far from Judy’s. By the end, we didn’t agree on much. But she was the first woman philosopher I ever met, and she was a kind a generous teacher to me. For these reasons, I will remember her with great fondness.

 

 

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